South Sudan: Q&A with Dan Alder
After violence broke out in Bentiu, Unity State of South Sudan, CARE reopened its mobile clinic in Bentiu, Unity State last weekend after it was forced to suspend operations. Dan Alder, CARE’s Communications and Advocacy Officer went to Bentiu last weekend and reports what he saw.
Can you explain how CARE’s mobile clinic is helping people affected by the violence?
DAN: CARE set up this clinic actually back in mid-February. We had been supporting all the clinics in Rubkona County before the current crisis began, and our clinic that we supported in Bentiu was looted and partially destroyed back in the initial phases of the current crisis. Basically we set up the mobile clinics to fill some of the gaps that were created by the lack of operation of the regular clinics. Before the most recent outbreak of violence two weeks ago, our staff was seeing about 100 people a day each day. Because of the fighting we had to close down the mobile clinics, and we were just able to get those back in operation working out of church grounds there on Saturday. We saw 32 patients the first day, and as word got around a little bit more we saw 70 patients on Sunday.
How exactly does a mobile clinic function?
DAN: All the public services in Bentiu were shut down basically, when the conflict began. Some services were being offered out of the hospital there, but the other clinics had been shut down. So this is a clinic that opens in the same place every day at the church and people who have trouble getting to the main hospital, they can come there. I was actually there on Saturday and Sunday to witness the reopening.
What exactly is this mobile clinic offering?
DAN: It’s a walk-in clinic and most of the problems that the staff are treating and are seeing are directly related to the lack of public services and the extreme contamination of the environment. There is no clean water available to people for washing or drinking. As a result, almost everybody in Bentiu has diarrhea right now and is complaining of stomach problems. So we were getting a lot of those of cases. And then there’s a lot of infections related to the contamination also, there are a lot of eye infections, skin infections. I have also seen a few gunshot wounds. The cleaning up of old wounds. And, besides that kind of the normal case load as malaria is always a big health issue.
Is there any fear of an outbreak of diseases?
DAN: We are worried about people defecating openly due to the lack of sanitary facilities. Most of the bodies have actually been buried now. I saw only just a few still laying around here and there. The outlook is disturbing. We were also seeing several cases of severe acute malnutrition. I spoke to one woman and she said that she just couldn’t get enough to eat herself, and so her child was suffering. Her baby girl wasn’t getting enough breast milk. The child was hungry, had an appetite, was trying very much to eat but she just didn’t have enough milk. And this problem with people not being able to get enough to eat is because of the disruption of the market. Most of the cattle have been taken away to safer places but the women and children stayed behind. There is nothing to buy on the market. People’s resilience is getting very thin, their normal coping mechanisms just aren’t working anymore and they keep having to flee into the bush or into the UN compound. We as CARE are extremely worried about seeing people starving.