By Corrie Butler
Conflict and displacement across South Sudan has put an enormous strain on health care systems. South Sudan Red Cross, with the support of Canadians and the Government of Canada, is reaching 33,000 women and children with vital health care in remote and hard-to-reach communities.
 
South Sudan Red Cross worker providing health services in remote communities“Because South Sudan is a country that has experienced so much war, much of their infrastructure has been destroyed – people literally have to rebuild the health care system,” says Lillian Nyamuda, Project Manager for Canadian Red Cross in South Sudan.
 
Many people, including women and children, flee to safety in other areas of the country. Their health needs are immense and yet, accessing health services is a challenge – facilities are often overburdened with cases or completely inaccessible.
 
With the support of Canadian Red Cross, the South Sudan Red Cross is helping to fill this gap. Red Cross outreach teams, made up of four health care staff, are fitted with everything needed to treat hundreds of patients a day in rural areas on the back of their motorbikes.
 
The outreach staff focus on maternal, newborn and child health, including routine consultation and treatment, ante-natal care, vaccinations, and health education. The team has reached more than 33,000 people in 2017 alone, rotating to one village a week in eight areas in Gogrial West, South Sudan.

Vital health care in villages few can reach
 
A mother with her baby

For mothers like Anok Garang, the outreach team has come just in time. Her limp baby boy, Alek, drapes over her shoulder as she explains to the Red Cross health officer her son’s symptoms. His weary little body is exhausted after having diarrhoea for more than three days in a row.
 
Bol Deng Pei, a nurse from the outreach team, hands her medicine and oral rehydration salts. He explains how to use the salts and shares a local trick to make it in the future if her children fall sick – salt, sugar and water. This will be a small relief for Anok who has been worried about Alek’s health since he fell sick.
 
“We would have had to walk five hours to a clinic if these health services were not here,” says Anok.
 
The outreach team will see hundreds of cases like this in a week. Sadly, many children die due to this preventable condition because it is left untreated.

Red Cross worker in South Sudan providing health services

 
Bol Deng Pei explains that in the communities they visit, some villagers have never received health care before: “Some of these children are growing up without getting any vaccines, without getting drugs. But because the South Sudan Red Cross is here, we have the ability to help.”