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South Sudan: Hundreds Wounded as Cycle of Violence Intensifies in Jonglei State
Escalating intercommunal clashes have left an unknown number of dead and injured in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, where Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) teams have treated hundreds of wounded and are attempting to reach out to thousands hiding in the bush.
Forced to flee
Preceding these intercommunal clashes, south Jonglei was also witness to violent conflict between the South Sudan Army (SPLA) and the David Yau Yau armed militia group, which forced an estimated 120,000 people to flee into the bush of Pibor county. Since July 14th, complementary surgical teams from Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been providing emergency care to patients arriving from Manyabol in the hospital in Bor.
“We are currently treating, with the support of the Ministry of Health, 176 wounded, including 128 gunshot wounds, and so far we’ve performed 34 surgical interventions. We are expecting more to come,” Médecins Sans Frontières Head of Mission Raphael Gorgeu said. “Our next priority is to ensure that patients in need of post-operative care and follow-up are flown to our larger MSF projects in Lankien, Nasir and Leer. 7 have already been moved.”
Afraid to seek medical care
Meanwhile, another Médecins Sans Frontières emergency team is attempting to reach the tens of thousands of people hiding in unsafe, malaria-infested swamps, without access to safe drinking water, food, or medical care. Today, a Médecins Sans Frontières team is being dispatched to an area south of Pibor town to provide first aid to these people and assess additional emergency medical needs.
“They are afraid to seek medical care in towns so it is essential for us to intervene where they are so that all those in need can access treatment,” said John Tzanos, head of the Médecins Sans Frontières team in Pibor County. Earlier this month, the team assessed other areas and set up a small clinic in Boma town, the scene of intense fighting over the past month. Médecins Sans Frontières also continues to run a primary health post in Gumuruk, which is now the only health-care facility in the county after the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Pibor town was targeted and destroyed in May.
“This coordination between MSF and the ICRC has been instrumental in scaling up the response to the growing medical humanitarian needs on all side,” adds Gorgeu. “At the same time, we realise the levels of assistance are far below the needs of the population in many areas. MSF teams will keep doing all they can to provide impartial assistance to all people in need, regardless of which side of the conflict they may be.”
Difficulties in reaching the wounded
The local authorities have granted access to the injured, but reaching the remaining wounded is still extremely difficult on all sides. The high level of insecurity in these remote locations, coupled with the start of the rainy season, makes landing aircraft difficult.
The levels of assistance remain far below the needs of the population in many areas. Médecins Sans Frontières is still extremely concerned about the impact the current violence could have on the local population and urges all parties to respect and facilitate deployment of humanitarian assistance all over Jonglei State.
Médecins Sans Frontières has been working in Jonglei state since 1993 and is currently providing primary and secondary healthcare through its health centres in Pibor, Uror and Nyirol counties, as well as emergency medical care when required in response to outbreaks of violence. In 2012, Médecins Sans Frontières provided 130,692 outpatient consultations in Jonglei state.