In the week following fighting in Juba, teams from the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) have treated more than 2,700 patients in four clinics across the capital city of South Sudan. The organization is also supplying clean drinking water in Juba and performing surgeries for people more seriously wounded during the violence.
On Tuesday, July 12, MSF opened a clinic at the St Theresa Church, in Kator, where thousands of people were taking refuge. Most people have now left St Theresa, with many going home to Gudele, where MSF's two clinics are now even busier than they were last week. At its fourth clinic at the Don Bosco Church in Gumbo, MSF is providing medical care and distributing relief items including bed nets, blankets and cooking kits.
"The majority of our patients are women and children," said Maria Guevara, MSF Medical Coordinator. "With reduced access to food, shelter and water, these groups are even more vulnerable - especially pregnant women and children under five years of age. Our teams could not have coped with the influx of patients without the hard work and dedication of the South Sudanese staff who, despite the insecurity, came to work for us to care for their communities."
The main conditions that people required emergency treatment for in the initial days included gunshot wounds and injuries sustained as they fled the fighting. People continue to need medical care for malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and skin infections and for respiratory tract infections that they developed when they left their homes because of fighting and slept outside in the bush.
Mother of five Cicilia brought baby Hasima to MSF's clinic at the St Theresa Church for a malaria test: "We stayed at home for eight hours when the fighting was strong and then left as soon as we could. We have been sleeping outside ever since. How am I going to feed my family? How will we live? Everything is gone."
With suspected cholera cases already reported in Juba, the supply of clean drinking water is even more important, especially given that it is the rainy season. MSF is trucking water in to Gudele and to St Theresa and will supply other parts of the city as is needed. MSF will also be supporting the Ministry of Health with its Cholera response by treating patients and managing a laboratory to test suspected cases.
This week MSF started providing surgical care for people who were more seriously wounded. The first five patients have been operated on, with more than 20 patients scheduled for operations in the coming days.
The violence could also have a longer-term psychological impact on people and MSF has already treated hundreds of patients who are suffering from severe acute post violence stress syndrome.
"Some patients turn up to the clinic crying," said MSF nurse Christina Dahl, "others have general symptoms such as body pain and headaches, which are due to the physical and mental trauma they have endured. The sense of uncertainty and about what the future holds only adds to the stress people are under."
MSF continues to provide free healthcare in its projects across South Sudan - the organisation provides more than 60,000 consultations across the country every month, and has worked in South Sudan for more than 35 years.