Helena & Ruth, South Sudan

Years of prolonged conflict, chronic vulnerabilities and weak essential services have left two-thirds of South Sudan’s 11 million population in need of humanitarian assistance. Health facilities are poorly equipped and staffed, and three out of four people have no access to basic healthcare.

As of mid-April 2021, more than 190,000 people remained sheltering in several civilian protection camps across the country. Displaced people, particularly those who have fled to remote areas, face great difficulty in accessing healthcare, along with their host communities. South Sudan’s already immense challenges include chronic malnourishment, recurring epidemics and poor health outcomes. The 2020 South Sudan Humanitarian Needs Overview says 44% of the population is at risk of communicable and non-communicable diseases. 

Our partner International Medical Corps is at the forefront of South Sudan’s COVID-19 response and prevention strategy, providing medical expertise, equipment, training, triage, surveillance, risk communication and treatment services in camp and other settings. It manages three COVID-19 supportive-care facilities. We sent it 11 pallets of assorted medicines including antibiotics, pain relievers and multivitamins; these arrived in late January 2021.  

Medicine and supplies were distributed throughout February and March to 26 health facilities across four states, including in camps for displaced people and facilities supported under the UNICEF-funded Provision of Essential Health Services Project (PEHSP) in Upper Nile state. Donations also went to International Medical Corps’ two COVID-19 management facilities in Juba and Wau. More than 2,100 units of mebendazole, treatment for intestinal worms, went to the country’s ministry of health. 

In the first three months of 2021, more than 66,270 people used our partner’s health facilities. Paracetamol and multivitamins were deployed to treat malaria, and amoxicillin and azithromycin were used in patients with respiratory tract infections. “[Because of these donations] we were able to provide timely medications to treat these common communicable diseases in the [camps] and reduce excess morbidities and mortalities,” our partner told us. 

Among those to receive medicines were Helena (23) and Ruth (34). 

Helena has been living with her family in the Internally displaced peoples (IDP) camp since the war started in 2013 and brings her children to the International Medical Corps clinic. 

“Before the war, I used to get medical care at the big hospital because I [had] some money, but since the war started and people [fled] to the IDP camp, we have been surviving on the support offered by humanitarian organisations. When [my children] have been admitted with severe conditions of malaria and respiratory conditions I [am able to] stay with them in the hospital until they are discharged,” said Helena. “Without [these] medicines the people would suffer,” she added. 

Ruth, 34, Wau PoC/IDP Camp 

“I came to Wau IDP camp in 2016 with five children when the conflict broke out in their community. During the conflict, I lost one of my children while we were [fleeing] from our home to the IDP camp. [Before coming here] I used to live in Jebel Kheir with my family, and I had my own small business selling dry okra, charcoal and groundnut paste while my husband worked as a daily labourer at the market. My work was suitable for me because I was able to take care of my children for their safety and security.” 

“When we reached the IDP camp, my child and I got sick and we were advised to go to the clinic for support. We were admitted for one day and discharged in good condition with medicines to use at home.”  

Ruth commented that the presence of the clinic means “I don’t worry whenever any of my family members get sick because we know it is there to support us. Through the continuous awareness sessions, we have learned a lot, especially [about] disease prevention, immunisations and their importance for both women and children.” She added, “I want to continue my education to [help me to] have a good job to support my children and the community.” 

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