The luck of a thousand

The luck of a thousand

Publication info

Joseph Scott, CARE South Sudan

On a hot afternoon, Ayam Manyiel sits on the veranda of her grass-thatched hut plucking small green leaves from a tree branch by her feet. The leaves will make it to her dinner table in the evening. It will be all she has to eat because her crop didn’t do well this year.  

“That kraal used to be full of cattle,” she says pointing to a mound of overgrown bushes and decaying poles. “My village was raided by cattle rustlers and I lost all my animals. I was even close to losing my son. If it wasn’t for the operating room at Pariang Hospital, my boy could have died.”  

Her son Arew Machar was shot by the rustlers as he tried to protect their cattle. The first bullet hit him in the arm but didn’t deter him. Cattle play an important role in South Sudan. “Without cattle, you are nothing,” Machar says.  

 “When the rustlers saw that I was not backing down, they shot at me again. This time they hit me in the stomach and that was the last thing I remember.” 

The community mobilized to get Machar to Pariang Hospital where he was met by a dedicated team of doctors.  

Machar’s condition was life threatening and he was rushed to the operating room. The grueling three-hour operation was one of the most challenging the doctors had ever undertaken. But they managed to repair the damaged internal organs and save Machar’s life. 

“It was a tough operation but what matters most is that we managed to save a life,” says Dr. Joseph Justin Jakwot, who operated on Machar. “We do a lot of operations here, but Machar’s was a different case. Not only was it complicated but he was our one thousandth case, so we had to ensure that we made history by making him survive.”  

Dr. Jakwot, who is the Doctor-In-Charge at the Pariang Hospital, says he takes pride in reaching such a landmark number considering that the hospital only began performing operations in 2013. Since then significant improvements have been made to the hospital, which is supported by CARE. X-ray and ultrasound machines have been installed, as well as additional maternity and in-patient wards added, laboratory supplies and a blood bank to provide better services to the community.  

“Our main clients are still women and girls, although we do a lot of other operations and amputations. We receive many cases of bullet wounds and delivery complications from the community and surrounding refugee camps,” Dr. Jakwot says. 

Before the operating room opened, patients were referred to Bentiu, some 93 kilometers away on barely passable road. Other referrals were sent as far as Juba and Khartoum, both several days travel on roads inaccessible during the rainy season and, now, increasingly dangerous as a result of the ongoing conflict. Many women would use traditional but untrained birth attendants ill-equipped to handle complex cases. Inevitably, women and girls in Pariang were dying of pregnancy-related complications. 

Dr. Jakwot says the situation has changed and the area now reports fewer pregnancy-related deaths. 

“It’s really a good feeling to hear from communities how this facility is helping to save lives,” he says. “People appreciate the work we are doing and everyone is talking about how the operating theatre either helped them or their relative. It gives us the will to do more and serve better.” 

Dr. Jakwot checking on Machar’s recovery at Pariang Hospital. Machar is now healed after having been operated on at the CARE supported hospital after he was shot by cattle rustlers who raided their village. Pariang Hospital is offering life saving operations to people from the surrounding community and three refugee camps in the area. Photo credit: Joseph Scott/CARE