Christmas babies a bright point amid suffering in South Sudan
Juba, South Sudan, 27 December 2013 - Doctors in military hospitals do not normally deliver a lot of babies, but at the small hospital serving the peacekeeping base of the United Mission in South Sudan, the capital Juba, they are suddenly getting a lot of practice.
More than 30 babies have been born at the hospital since the conflict began on 15 December, and some 10,000 people fled to the base for shelter. Altogether, over 80,000 people are estimated to be displaced because of the violence; the majority of them women and children.
The doctors at the Tomping base, soldiers themselves from the Cambodian army, are used to treating the ailments of just 1,100 people – most of them quite fit soldiers. Suddenly, they have to cope with the needs of a population of 10,000 civilians who are living in the open with not enough food or clean water.
“For the first few days we were treating the injuries of those who had been hurt outside,” says Lt. Col Lv Rui, who is in charge of the hospital. “Now, we are seeing lots of cases of malaria, sore throats and flu and diarrhoea.”
Rui says over the last ten days they have treated some 900 civilians, but “We have not even tried to keep count of how many children are among those we’ve been treating, we are just too busy and too exhausted for that kind of record-keeping.”
Another problem for the hospital has been a lack of paediatric formulas of the medicines as they normally treat only adults. UNICEF is making children’s medicines available to UNMISS hospitals.
Nyakuma, 20 is one of the three mothers who gave birth to Christmas babies at the hospital. Her baby girl, born at 12:56 on Christmas day, does not yet have a name, or a home. Nyakuma and her husband have been living at the compound for eight days. “Conditions are very difficult,” she says, “It is dirty and there is no shelter for us. We have to sleep in the open on the ground.”
Nyakuma and her baby can stay at the hospital - where they have a mattress on the floor – for four days. After that, with the hospital so cramped, they will have to go back to the camp. Nonetheless, the young mother has a lot to look forward to with a healthy baby sleeping tight right next to her. “I am so grateful to be here at the UNMISS hospital to have my baby,” she says.