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South Sudan: Médecins Sans Frontières treats wounded after attack on civilians in Jonglei

South Sudan / 15.02.13

Jonglei man was shot in the head while trying to his defend cattle, in a previous attack last year. © Brendan Bannon

Jonglei, South Sudan - Following an attack in Akobo county in northern Jonglei state on Friday, 8 February, international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières is treating 13 patients in two health facilities in neighbouring Upper Nile state; all, except one, suffering from gun shot wounds.

The majority of patients are women and children, including a 34 year old pregnant woman and a three-year old child, both with gun shot wounds.

Our patients tell us they were migrating from their village in Walgak toward the Sobat River with their cattle when they were attacked,” says Michiel van Tongeren, Médecins Sans Frontières Project Coordinator in Nasir. “They say the attackers were armed with guns and many people were killed. They report that it was mostly women and children as the men were faster to escape. Some people returned to bury the dead and help the wounded, but then they became scared and fled again.”

A Médecins Sans Frontières team currently in Ulang – the area to which a large number of people fled following the attack – is identifying wounded people in the area and stabilising patients in a healthcare facility. Once stable, patients are transported by boat to the organisation’s hospital in Nasir. Médecins Sans Frontières’ surgical team in Nasir has operated on 12 patients since Monday, 11 February and is continuing to operate on more patients as needed. All patients are currently in a stable condition.

Right now, it is not clear just how many more wounded people are hiding in the bush who have not yet been able to access medical care,” says van Tongeren. “We are trying to find them and refer them to our hospital in Nasir for treatment. We will start carrying out mobile clinics to identify more wounded and provide medical care for this vulnerable population who survived the attack.”

Médecins Sans Frontières has repeatedly sounded the alarm on the high levels of violence affecting the population in Jonglei, a state where access to healthcare is already tremendously difficult. In November 2012, the organisation issued a report documenting the devastating impact of extreme violence on the lives and health of civilians in the state.

It is not only the direct consequences of violence, such as gun shot wounds, that we are concerned about,” says Raphael Gorgeu, Médecins Sans Frontières Head of Mission in South Sudan. “Our experience working in Jonglei shows that there are less visible, but equally serious indirect consequences. Entire communities have to flee for their lives, deep into the bush. Without shelter, food or safe drinking water, they are susceptible to malaria, pneumonia, malnutrition and diarrhoea.”

Médecins Sans Frontières has been working in Jonglei state since 1993. Médecins Sans Frontières provides 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 extreme violence. Patients in need of surgery are referred to Médecins Sans Frontières  health facilities in Nasir (Upper Nile) and Leer (Unity), and in some cases, to Boma Hospital and to Juba Teaching Hospital.


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