Juba (Agenzia Fides) - "South Sudan is a mother that dies at about 20 years of age, due to a birth gone wrong, because assisted only by her grandmother, in her hut made of earth and mud. Two babies born at home, a third to be delivered, and no one who bothers to go to the hospital or health center. South Sudan is a little girl, about 2 years old, who weighs 8.5 kilograms, is bloated, cannot even open her legs and eyes. She has a very severe form of malnutrition. South Sudan are dads who walk for days, kilometers and kilometers, to bring their sick children to the first available hospital and who too often arrive late". These are the real data provided directly to Fides by Elisa Bissacco of the Media Relations Sector of Doctors with Africa Cuamm.
"I will never forget the faces of the children I cared for, the looks of the mothers crouching under their children's beds, the silence of the relatives of the sick who sat on the veranda outside the hospital waiting, hoping and their pain when I communicated that their loved one had not made it", says Francesca, a Cuamm nurse.
"Here the right to life, to health, to safety, do not exist. You can read it in the resigned eyes of the mothers who have nothing to eat for their children, but also in the disillusioned eyes of the soldiers who no longer know why they are fighting and dying far from home, without wages and food, boys who are always hungry, as tall as poles and as thin as sticks", says Alessandra, Cuamm surgeon.
It is a difficult and invisible commitment, that of Cuamm doctors and workers, made up of patience, perseverance, a lot of stubbornness and trust.
"This is our way of making factual and concrete, every day, that 'Euntes, curate infirmos,' which inspired the origins and continues to guide Cuamm's present", Elisa continues. It is the caring for the other that becomes the Gospel. We felt challenged deep inside to bring help to a population in need of everything. And we chose to go the last mile, to the farthest place, where no one wants to go, to those peripheries of the world so dear to Pope Francis, who is now rekindling hope with his just-concluded visit".
Independent since 2011 and in civil war since 2013, South Sudan is the world's poorest country ranked last (191) by Human Development Index. A patch of red earth, twice the size of Italy, lying on a sea of oil, everything is lacking in South: Roads, infrastructure, services, schools, health. It is one of the most fragile and needy countries in the world. It has 12 million inhabitants, mostly semi-nomadic herders from different ethnic groups constantly fighting each other. About 2 million are displaced. People who have abandoned their huts, taking refuge in other areas within the country itself. An estimated 9 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. One in two children is malnourished, as well as two in three pregnant women. Trained health personnel are in short supply. A March 2022 United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report counts 1 doctor for every 65,574 people and 1 midwife for every 39,000. It means that only 1 in every 1,953 pregnant mothers can have a birth attended by a skilled and trained person.
"It is a dramatic picture," Bissacco stressed. And in the face of our brother's suffering, we have chosen not to turn away, because the needs of the poorest and last become our priority. Always 'with Africa,' accompanying the people and the authorities to walk, step by step and grow together.
We started in 2006, before independence, in Yirol Hospital. From there, the outreach expanded to Lui Hospital with the attached Midwifery School, to Rumbek Hospital, to Maridi Hospital, until today, that Cuamm is an official partner of the South Sudanese government to give primary health care to the population. We are present in 11 counties, where we support 103 peripheral health facilities; 4 hospitals (Yirol, Lui, Rumbek, Cueibet); 2 Institutes of Health Sciences, with about 1,350 national health staff and 924 community health workers, supported by an international team of about 60 people.
'Your work is a concrete example of putting into practice something we ask every day in the “Our Father”. You are striving to ensure that there is no lack of daily bread for so many brothers and sisters who today, do not have access to normal, basic health care'. These are the words Pope Francis himself addressed to us during the Meeting held at the Vatican on November 19, 2022 (see Fides, 18/11/2022). And they are the reality we live every day, convinced that peace also passes through taking care of people's health."
"The journey is only at the beginning," concludes the head of Cuamm's Media Relations Sector. The road ahead for South Sudan to become a country where people live in dignity is still very long. We really hope that the Pope’s trip will be the first stone laid to rebuild peace, because only then can every problem find a solution". (EB/AP) (Agenzia Fides, 6/2/2023)