South Sudan became the world’s youngest country after gaining independence from Sudan in July 2011.
MSF in South Sudan 2014
But, in December 2013, the landlocked country in eastern central Africa – home to more than 12 million people – was plunged back into chaos. A civil war erupted amid a power struggle between the president and his deputy.
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders has been working in the area that now constitutes South Sudan for more than 30 years, responding to conflicts, neglected diseases and filling healthcare gaps wherever needed.
In 2014, we committed more funds to South Sudan than any other country. Our teams ran 20 programmes in nine states, maintaining essential pre-existing projects and responding to conflict-related emergency medical needs.
Attacks on healthcare
Mary Keji rushed her two children, Matthew (four) and Ludia (two-and-a-half), to an MSF cholera treatment centre in Juba, the capital of South Sudan that was gripped by a cholera epidemic in 2014.
Both children had fallen sick within hours of each other, showing symptoms of cholera such as diarrhoea and vomiting.
“As Matthew became worse, I started to worry,” said Mary. “Then Ludia started to get sick, and I was afraid. I had heard there was cholera in Juba, and I knew it was serious. People said there was treatment in the main hospital (Juba Teaching Hospital), but it was too far away from me to get to.”
“Some neighbours told me that they had heard that an organisation had built a special clinic for cholera in our area. I picked up my children, and carried them here.”
“If this clinic wasn’t here, I don’t know what I could have done. I would have had to wait. And just hope that they would somehow recover.”
Matthew and Ludia were both discharged from our treatment centre a few days later and returned home with their mother.
“The brutality of the attack on Leer is one thing, what people experienced in the bush is the next, months of living in fear, surviving on dirty water, killing their cattle and in some cases surviving on water lilies.
"In less than two months after we returned to Leer, the MSF teams treated more children for malnutrition (2,835 for May and June), than we did in the whole of 2013 (2,142 over the entire year).
“Now, thankfully, the situation seems to have stabilised - for the most part anyway.
“The reports of abuse and fear from the time in the bush are also overwhelming. ‘The women they were raped, so many women. They were raped when they went to get food. Eight men – they raped a pregnant woman until she died.’
“’I am a nurse, but what can I do? It makes me very unhappy when I see these women. Very unhappy,’ an MSF nurse tells me.”
Read more from Jo and our teams in South Sudan on the MSF blog.
MSF’s work in South Sudan: 2014
Ongoing fighting displaced more than 1.5 million people in South Sudan in 2014.
MSF provided emergency care at designated Protection of Civilians sites and UN compounds.
Medical care under fire
Hospitals were looted and burned down, in some places, denying hundreds of thousands of people access to desperately needed care.
In Leer, for example, attacks halted outpatient and inpatient care for children and adults, surgery, maternity services, and treatment for HIV and TB.
In Malakal, patients were killed inside the town’s teaching hospital, and in Bentiu, people were killed on hospital grounds.
In Upper Nile state, teams at Nasir Hospital and in Malakal provided thousands of monthly consultations until insecurity curtailed efforts. And in Lakes state, MSF offered basic and specialist care, including vaccinations, in Awerial’s Minkaman camp, carrying out some 52,000 consultations.
Northern Bahr El Ghazal
In Pamat, Northern Bahr El Ghazal state, MSF offered basic and specialist care to displaced people, while staff at Aweil Civil Hospital provided paediatric care, maternity services, and emergency obstetric care. MSF treated more than 30,000 people for malaria as well.
In Jonglei state, teams offered a range of services in Bor, Pibor, Gumuruk, Lekwongole, and Old Fangak as security allowed, and provided emergency surgery in Lankien.
In Western Equatoria state, staff at Yambio State Hospital provided paediatric and antenatal care, surgery, and HIV treatment. And in Agok, MSF offered inpatient care, emergency surgery, maternity services, and therapeutic feeding at the region’s only hospital with specialist services.
Teams also provided comprehensive medical services for some 70,000 Sudanese refugees at Yida camp, where they undertook the first ever pneumococcal vaccination campaign in a refugee setting, reaching 10,000 children under the age of two.
And in May, MSF opened five cholera treatment centers in Juba during an outbreak.
Find out more in our 2014 International Activity Report.
At the end of 2014, MSF had 3,996 staff in South Sudan. MSF has been working in the area that is now South Sudan since 1983.