“I have just come back after a long day outside the UN Protection of Civilian Area (PoC) in Bentiu. In the past months, we as CARE and other organizations were limited to work inside the PoC, where tens of thousands of people have sought safety from the fighting. However, now that the fighting stopped, our team decided to work outside the UN camp because there are so many people who have not received any assistance. Who are surviving with very little to eat, who have no access to health care, who are scared and traumatized from many months of violence. So far, CARE is the only organization assisting people outside the PoC. We have a small mobile clinic which drives to Bentiu town twice a week. However, after seeing the immense needs in the past days, we now decided to use the mobile clinic daily. There are just too many people who need our help. In the past weeks, we have only gone to one spot, near the catholic church. However, we plan to expand and include two more locations for our vaccination campaign which is about to start in the coming days. We will vaccinate people against measles, polio and will provide vitamin A. This will also be an opportunity for us to de-worm all children under five and to screen them for malnutrition. So in a nutshell: we are doing what we can to provide basic primary health care.

We are a team of eight: a clinical officer, a pharmacist, a lab technician, an immunization technician. And as of this week we have two new members – one colleague who is in charge of nutrition screening and one midwife to assist pregnant women and lactating mothers. With these two new staff, we will be able to offer integrated ante- and post natal care and education in addition to nutritional education. And then there is the driver and me as the team leader. There are now more and more people coming to our mobile clinic because the word has spread quickly that we are there to support them. Some people walk three or five hours to receive our assistance. Some have to stay overnight in Bentiu. This is especially perilous for women who always face the danger of sexual assault or worse. It must be a very hard and desperate decision for them: receiving support yet risking to walk for hours through a conflict area. People have spent months without any medical support. They tell me that children have died, that their neighbors have died, that they lost friends. Many of them are extremely happy to see CARE again. We have been working here before the conflict started, and people know us, they trust us. Yet they have so many needs. They need medicine and food. They have not been able to plant and the market is not fully functioning again. As we can provide only primary health care we bring the more serious cases to the MSF clinic in the PoC and we make sure the patient is treated. We also drive them home as soon as they feel better. Last week we had to refer three patients, one of them was a small boy with jaundice. He was still in hospital with his mother when I visited him last Sunday. I hope he can be released soon. One of our main challenges is the constant insecurity. This morning I heard gunshots and shelling close by. Therefore we follow strict security protocols and before we leave the PoC we discuss the situation with security colleagues from the UN. As we are an independent and impartial organization we do not drive with military escorts. Whenever we are outside of the PoC we communicate every couple of hours with our colleagues at the base. It is not easy but the team and I feel we have to do it to support all these people who are on their own. People live with that constant insecurity day after day. I always try to put myself in their shoes. The signs of violence and destruction are still clearly visible in Bentiu: Empty houses, destroyed buildings. No re-construction has started yet. People are scared and traumatized. While they slowly open up to CARE staff, telling us their often dreadful stories, it’s mainly the men who talk. I hope that as soon as the midwife starts we can find out more about women’s particular needs, hear more of their voices. Yet, compared to the previous weeks, the town of Bentiu is becoming more and more lively. A few shops have opened at the major market and we see more people on the streets. Women are walking by to collect firewood or sell items. We also observe that the number of displaced people living in the PoC decreases, at the moment it stands at 35,000 people. I hope that it will become peaceful again and that people can go home to rebuild their lives. Its 11 p.m. now on a Tuesday night. This is our normal work rhythm: we start early and we stop late. The needs are just too immense. Outside, it just stopped raining. I fear that when I open the door, the PoC will be flooded again, as it did in the past days. The rainy season is in full swing at the moment and that means people have to literally live in the mud. So let’s hope for the best!”

– Blog by Joseph Ngamije

Area Manager Rubkhona-Bentiu

CARE South Sudan

Posted By : CARE Team