International Medical Corps is responding to a recent outbreak of inter-communal violence in South Sudan. Following a cattle raid in the village of Romyereh in Upper Nile State on March 9, and ongoing hostilities throughout the weekend, International Medical Corps has been treating mass casualties at Akobo County Hospital in Jonglei State, a 5-hour boat ride from the site, and the nearest accessible medical facility.
Our staff reported that some 700 internally displaced people (IDPs) fleeing the hostilities arrived in Dulule, a town on the border with Ethiopia, on Tuesday, heading south toward Akobo town. International Medical Corps conducted a rapid assessment of the arriving IDPs including nutrition screenings. The team found high malnutrition rates as well as a lack of access to safe drinking water. International Medical Corps has enrolled 19 children in our nutrition program and will provide ongoing care.
We deployed a flight with additional medical and non-medical staff on Wednesday morning. Three Ministry of Health doctors, including a surgeon, are arrived in Akobo on Tuesday to provide surgical and general medical support to the hospital. In addition, The World Health Organization provided additional supplies via a United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) flight on Tuesday morning.
To date, 67 casualties have arrived at the hospital. The caseload includes 61 patients with gunshot wounds – including 5 children-as well as many fractures and other minor wounds. One person died in transit to the hospital. International Medical Corps has one surgeon and one nurse on-site who are managing the incident, along with over 150 hospital support staff. Four cases have been transferred by air to Malakal Teaching Hospital for advanced care.
Four boats were dispatched from Akobo on March 10 for Wandi, Upper Nile State – an area close to Romyereh where fighting took place, but is inaccessible by road. The boats returned early on March 11 bringing eight patients to Akobo Hospital who were displaying extreme fatigue and/or dehydration. The team that traveled to Wandi confirmed seeing bodies of people killed in the fighting. A comprehensive assessment has not yet been completed in Romyereh to confirm the number of casualties.
Complicating an already difficult working environment, security disturbances in Akobo town on March 10 forced International Medical Corps to briefly evacuate re-locatable staff to the nearest UNMISS base. The International Medical Corps team remained in the UNMISS compound for approximately four hours, while two clinical staff returned to the hospital under UN escort to monitor patients and prepare for the incoming caseload. All International Medical Corps staff returned to the hospital that night and additional patients arrived by boat soon after. International Medical Corps is assisting the Akobo County Health Department, the Akobo County Commissioner, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and other local NGO partners coordinating emergency medical assistance to victims of this inter-communal violence. Akobo County Hospital has a 76-bed capacity, a fully functioning operating room, male and female inpatient wards, x-ray and ultrasound capacity, a pharmacy and a working laboratory. Inter-communal fighting in Jonglei State has been ongoing since early 2011, with only a small pause after the referendum in July 2011.
To date, approximately 120,000 people have been displaced during fighting, and disruption of access to basic services (health, nutrition, shelter, water, sanitation, and education) in affected counties has made populations even more vulnerable in this remote and difficult-to-access area. International Medical Corps is supporting 21 health facilities in Jonglei state, providing primary and secondary health care, nutrition, and WASH services with funding from the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, the US State Department Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration, the World Food Program, the Basic Services Fund, the UN High Commission for Refugees and the Jersey Overseas Aid Commission. International Medical Corps has been present in South Sudan since 1994, and currently works in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Central Equatoria and Western Equatoria State.