Providing healthcare services to returnees and refugees fleeing fighting in Sudan
Mary Ukuach Deng, 34 years old and her three little children on a Tuesday morning awoke to a rattling sound of gunshots at her residence of Hai Mayo in the Sudanese capital Khartoum. It began a long rough journey to safety for Deng with her family. Deng, among others, was forced to flee to her country of origin, South Sudan, by the intense fighting in Khartoum.
Ms Deng had been residing in Khartoum for over 20 years. She had fled the war in South Sudan 20 years ago. Again, due to the fighting in Sudan, Deng fled to the border town of Renk in South Sudan in search of safety, a journey that took her two days.
“It was such a tragic experience for my children and me. I was so scared because of the loud sound of guns that engulfed our neighbourhood; we could see soldiers running all over”. Deng narrated her ordain.
Deng found safety at the border town of Renk in South Sudan, located about 453 Km south of the capital Khartoum.
Deng is among thousands of people fleeing the fighting and spent days and weeks in limbo, without access to water, shelter, food and health care.
“It is a nightmare to me; my children have never had a meal today, we left everything in our house, and one of them is sick with no medicine”, Deng added.
“The huge population of the returnees and refugees have resulted in overcrowding at the transit sites in Renk, posing a huge risk of disease outbreaks, and this is a big concern,” said
Dr Ernest Apuktong, State Minister of Health, Upper Nile State, “We are thankful to the role partners continue to play in supporting our government and people. The arrival of the WHO team has come as a relief to many residents”.
Despite this challenging condition, the Government of South Sudan, through the Ministry of Health, is working with partners to ensure that the basic health needs of the people arriving from Sudan and that of the host community are taken care of. Multi-disciplinary teams of health experts are dispatched to various locations and work with partners to support the communities.
Saving the lives of refugees and returnees
The World Health Organization (WHO) has deployed mobile medical teams comprised of clinicians, nurses and public health officers to locations experiencing an influx of people from Sudan to support the Ministry of Health and health cluster partners to strengthen humanitarian health coordination, disease surveillance and provision of the much-needed health care services.
WHO prepositioned 269 Health Emergency Kits (185 Inter Agency Emergency Health Kits, 25 Cholera Investigation and treatment kits, 17 Pneumonia Kits, six Sever Acute Malnutrition with medical complication kits and 36 sample collection and transportation kits) to ensure continuity of healthcare services in Renk, Malakal, Panikang, Raja, Aweil and Rubkona. The kits are enough to serve 101 555 people affected by the conflict for the next three months.
Dr Fabian Ndenzako, the WHO Representative a.i for South Sudan, said, “The unfolding humanitarian crises in Sudan is placing a huge burden on the already fragile health system due to the huge influx of people, thereby increasing the risk of disease outbreaks putting the life of tens of thousands of people at risk”.
“WHO has scaled up its presence on the ground, delivering much-needed medical supplies for timely response and will continue to support the Ministry of Health and partners on the ground to ensure that refugees and returnees receive the most needed basic healthcare services.”, Dr Ndenzako added.
Thanks to United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the African Public Health Emergency Fund (APHEF) for supporting the Sudan crisis response. In addition, USAID contributed USD 5 million to WHO to support an integrated health response for communities affected by crises and acute food insecurity across South Sudan.
Dr Aggrey Bategereza, Email: bategerezaa [at] who.int
Dr Abraham Abenego, Email: abenegoa [at] who.int
Mobile: +211 921736375
Email: atema [at] who.int
Mobile: +211 921 647 859
Email: ebrahimj [at] who.int