Médecins Sans Frontières has been operating in the area that now constitutes South Sudan for more than 30 years, responding to conflicts, neglected diseases and assisting with healthcare infrastructure.
Medical care is practically non-existent for people living in remote areas of South Sudan, even those spared from much of the violence associated with the war. We run hospitals and clinics and support existing state facilities, with particular focus on maternal, paediatric and neonatal care, and outbreak response. MSF also set up a system in which South Sudanese staff travel with displaced people to provide medical care, including for victims of sexual violence.
Malaria is one of the leading causes of illness and death in South Sudan, especially among children. In cooperation with the Ministry of Health, MSF teams assist in outbreak response, mass vaccination campaigns, and direct treatment. We train community healthcare workers, run outreach and preventive activities such as vaccination campaigns. MSF staff respond to cholera outbreaks, by setting up treatment centres and field hospitals, and support remote communities with decentralised care.
The normal practice in this area is for women to deliver at home with a traditional birth attendant, and this might mean they don't receive proper antenatal care and that complications are not anticipated. We work a lot in the community to encourage women to receive prenatal care and deliver in the hospital, because it is safer for the mother and the baby... It's important to engage with communities in these hard-to-reach areas.
Access to health care is extremely limited in South Sudan, and MSF's hospital in Old Fangak is often the only place people in the region can receive treatment for serious medical conditions. Patients often have to walk for several hours on foot, and travel through harsh weather to reach the hospital from remote villages. The distance and long journey makes it especially difficult for patients with emergency needs, including women with complications during childbirth.
MSF staff carry out emergency nutritional interventions in response to reports of alarming levels of malnutrition, especially in Mayendit and Leer counties. We also treat the parasitic disease visceral leishmaniasis (also known as kala azar), which is transmitted by sandflies and has a 95% mortality rate if left untreated.
MSF continues to provide healthcare to people within United Nations Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites. These sites were set up as a temporary solution for people fleeing violence in December 2013, but in the years since, hundreds of thousands remain trapped in the hostile camps, exposed to poor sanitation and hazardous living conditions.
MSF staff provide medical care, surgical services, and support for victims of sexual and gender-based violence.