Thirty-year-old Lucia Othow was born and raised in Kodok, South Sudan. After working as a midwife in Kodok Hospital, she joined International Medical Corps as a gender-based violence (GBV) case worker.
When fighting erupted and Kodok Town was targeted, Lucia remembers everybody running into the bushes, fearing for their lives. She said: “Some days, we would stay in the bush the whole night. We were afraid of the shelling targeting Kodok Town.”
Lucia knew she couldn’t just stand by and watch her people suffer. During breaks in the fighting, she set out to mobilize community members to help take the wounded to the hospital.
“The months of June and July were the worst because many people lost their lives in the violence”, Lucia recalls. “The shelling was heavy and targeted innocent civilians. I felt I had to offer my support because my people were suffering.”
Amongst the injured, there were also pregnant women who needed help. Using her skills as a trained midwife, Lucia helped women deliver despite the chaos going on all around them. During this time, she also came across GBV survivors.
“The fighting caused a lot of confusion. People who didn’t know each other shared the same sleeping spaces which put women at risk of sexual violence. Women were also at risk because there were no latrines and people had to go far into the bush. Many had to walk long distances in search of water and food, usually in the forest.”
As a trained GBV case worker for International Medical Corps, Lucia was able to provide psychological first aid and link survivors to immediate medical help.
Lucia understands the importance of giving a hand to people in need. “I felt very sad to see my community suffering, especially the women and girls”, she says. “I am happy that I was able to provide some assistance. My passion is to help women and girls recover from the things they have been through.”
Lucia remains in Kodok to this day, and is well known among community members. She continues to work with victims of GBV, supporting them to overcome the trauma in their past.
“It is important that organisations like International Medical Corps continue to provide support to survivors and raise awareness in the community to prevent GBV and create a safer environment for women and girls in South Sudan.”
International Medical Corps has been implementing gender-based violence programs in Akobo East and Fashoda counties in Jonglei and Upper Nile state respectively since December 2014. Through these programs, International Medical Corps delivers confidential and compassionate psychosocial and case management services for survivors of GBV.
In addition, International Medical Corps conducts skill-building sessions for women and girls including bead-making, basketry, crocheting, and literacy classes to improve their social network and sense of support to each other. International Medical Corps also engages the local community through facilitating the development of community task forces, conducts community dialogue sessions and house-to-house information campaigns to raise awareness and mobilize the community to prevent gender-based violence.