Climate of uncertainty creates challenges On Jan. 7, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in South Sudan returned to Pibor town with 12 medical and logistics staff to provide an emergency response in the aftermath of recent intercommunal violence in Pibor, Jonglei State. The looting of MSF’s facilities and the climate of uncertainty make it challenging for MSF to rapidly scale up activities. Before the violence hit Pibor town, MSF had evacuated all non-local staff to Juba, and the locally recruited staff had left town and gone into hiding along with the other inhabitants of Pibor. As of Jan. 10, 60 of the 155 locally-hired MSF staff in Pibor county remain unaccounted for. MSF is very concerned for their welfare and for the fate of all the inhabitants who fled into the bush to save their lives.


South Sudan © Parthesarathy Rajendran/MSF
One of the consultation rooms in the MSF clinic in Pibor. The clinic, which also includes laboratory and pharmacy rooms, was completely ransacked and much of its content irreparably damaged during recent violence in the area.

“There is a strong sense of uncertainty in the area around Pibor,” says Colette Gadenne, MSF program manager for South Sudan. “Lots of people, including many of our local staff, are looking for lost family members in the bush, fearing the worst. This, and the irreparable damage to most of our drugs and medical material, makes it extremely challenging for us to mount an effective emergency response for those in urgent need of medical care.” The MSF-run hospital in Pibor town was totally ransacked. Although the main concrete building and roof are largely intact, little if any of the medical equipment or drugs are currently useable. MSF is rehabilitating the facilities to allow the team to resume medical activities, and has airlifted more than one tonne of supplies, including drugs and medical and logistical material, to Pibor town, with more to follow this week.


South Sudan © Parthesarathy Rajendran/MSF
An aerial view of the clinic. Strewn around are boxes of drugs and medical equipment, irreparably damaged.

In these constraining circumstances, MSF has started to provide emergency medical care for the people who have returned to Pibor town. Until more people have returned from the bush, where they are scattered over a large area, it is impossible for MSF to have a clear view of what the precise medical needs will be. Over the coming days MSF will assess the non-medical needs and will undertake an appropriate humanitarian response depending on its independent findings. Since 2005, the MSF team has provided healthcare for the 160,000 people in Pibor County, as well as providing healthcare in other parts of Jonglei State. MSF is committed to providing the high quality of healthcare teams offered before the violence as soon as possible. MSF has demonstrated its complete impartiality and neutrality over the years, working in a great many different communities in South Sudan.  In 2011, three MSF medical facilities were targeted in Jonglei State. MSF condemns the targeting of medical facilities by any armed group. MSF commits to continue to bring humanitarian aid and medical assistance to the people of Jonglei State.