International Medical Corps has been responding to a recent outbreak of inter-communal violence in South Sudan. Following raids on a number of cattle camps close to the village of Romyereh in Upper Nile State on March 9, and continued fighting around these raids, International Medical Corps has been treating mass casualties at Akobo County Hospital in Jonglei State, a five-hour boat ride from the site, and the nearest accessible medical facility.
Through funding from our partner, The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, we were able to treat 67 casualties who arrived at the hospital. The caseload includes 61 patients with gunshot wounds, including five children, as well as many fractures and other minor wounds. International Medical Corps has one surgeon and one nurse on-site who are managing the incident, along with some 150 hospital support staff.
On the morning of Friday, March 9th Yijn was in a cattle camp, a three-day walk from his home in Akobo, in Jonglei State. He awoke at sunrise to the sound of gunfire. Yijn rushed towards the gunfire to try to defend his cattle along with other men, while the women and children fled for safety. The cattle camp was quickly surrounded by Murle cattle raiders, leaving no easy escape from the attack. Many women and children were killed and some children abducted. Yijn suffered the devastating loss of his two-year-old son in the attack.
After being shot in the arm, Yijn made his way to Wanding, a village to the south of Romyereh, after learning that there he could board boats that were sent for the casualties. At Wanding, Yijn boarded a boat that International Medical Corps helped deploy to take the injured to Akobo County Hospital, the only place in Jonglei State where he could receive an x-ray. Upon detecting a fracture, the doctor administered antibiotics and put Yijn’s arm in a cast. As Yijn recovers from his injuries at the hospital, his wife is taking care of their family at home, until she is reunited with her husband.
Eighteen-year-old Nyathak-Ulang was born with a deformity resulting in an extreme curvature of the chest and back. This has caused a lack of physical strength and inability to perform physically demanding tasks. Because women in South Sudanese culture are respected for their strength, this has had significant social implications, as well.
Nyathak-Ulang was at the same cattle camp as Yijn when it was attacked by Murle cattle raiders on March 9. Sleeping peacefully outside the cattle camp with her four nieces and nephews, aged two, three, four, and five, she awoke to the sound of gunfire. Nyathak-Ulang ran as fast as she could with the other women and children. However, due to her impairment, she was not able to run quickly enough and was shot and subsequently lost consciousness. She was found by her father and brother, and with the help of two other men, carried for three hours to an International Medical Corps-deployed boat to Akobo County Hospital. Throughout the long journey she faded in and out of consciousness and was in extreme pain. Upon finally arriving at the International Medical Corps-supported Akobo Hospital that evening, she was given an x-ray that showed a compound fracture on the left ulna in her lower arm. She received medication, was treated for her gunshot wound and her arm was strapped and bandaged. Nyathak-Ulang is still experiencing a lot of pain but is thankful to International Medical Corps and the facilities and staff at Akobo County Hospital. She is expected to make a full recovery from her injuries and has the company of her family by her side.
Seventy-five-year-old Makuach was also in the cattle camp when the attacks occurred. He was also awoken by gunshots and tried to escape with his eight family members, half of whom were shot and killed. As the only male in his family, despite being 75, Makuach had to stay with the cattle. He lost his wife and three children in the fighting, and was shot in the abdomen himself. His family were separated from him while they hid in the long grass. He was found by the team searching for casualties and was taken to the boat bound for Akobo County Hospital, where he received lifesaving surgery performed by an International Medical Corps surgeon.
A neighbor informed Makuach of the death of his wife and three children. This crippling news came after he lost his 26 remaining cattle, the main source of income for his family. Although Makuach is expected to make a full physical recovery, at 75 he is left with without any livelihood, and is grieving the loss of his family members.