A Clinic in the middle of nowhere

Akot Medical Clinic is built in Ruweng State, South Sudan, about 45-50 km southeast of Pariang town, the headquarter of the state. It was built between January and May 2016 by the local residents in Akot with the help of Athiolget Women’s & Children’s Health Association team. The local team designed it, supplied timber for the walls and roof, and grass for the roof as well. The ropes were woven by women’s group who also helped in supplying water and local beer during the building phase. The building is 10 X 3.5 m and has been divided into three rooms for consultation, waiting area and medicines storage.

Clinic still getting some repairs as Chol Michar Kon worked on the entry door

Village residents remain in a queue as they are treated with antimalarial, worm tablets, asthma puffers and painkillers

Akot Village is over 2,000km north from Juba City by seasonal road and over 1,000km by air. Juba is the capital City of South Sudan and the only functioning town in South Sudan as others have been devastated by the war between South Sudan and Sudan and from the crises starting from 2013. Jubais the lifeline of Pariang town as Sudan civil war rages 60km away in the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan and Blue Nile pouring in thousands of refugees into Ruweng State. These refugees are located in Yida, Ajuong Thok and Pamir camps in Ruweng State. The relations between South Sudan and Sudan government is a simmering pot waiting to boil over anytime. There is no trade allowed between the two countries, therefore no goods come from north Sudan. See the map below.

Map of South Sudan and neighbouring countries

Akot Village lies about 65km north of the Sudd Swamp, Bahr el Ghazal River, Lake No and the White Nile. During the rainy season, these water masses pour excess water to the area sometimes causing flooding. The village has over 5,000 residents whose economy depends on crop farming and animals keeping. The main crops are sorghum, maize, sesame, okra, tobacco, beans and ground nuts. Animals include cows, goats, sheep, donkeys and birds such as chickens. Most crop and animal products are for local consumption.

An evening fun for Akot village young men and women playing drums close to the clinic.

The village has no schools, hospitals, clean drinking water or road linking it to Pariang town or Yida, the nearest airstrip in the state particularly during wet season. Most disease outbreaks e.g. malaria, dysentery, cholera, typhoid and kala-azar happen during the rainy season when the village is isolated and villagers have to carry the sick to Pariang Primary Health Centre on their heads or shoulders. Depending on the weight of the patient, the journey can take up to 2-5 days to get to the nearest help. This devastates the family especially if the sick is one of the breadwinners who may end up dead or spend most of his/her times recovering in towns far away from the family.

Akot Medical Clinic has raised hope in the community as members will access medical care while they are close to their families, farms and animals without having to spend time away. We hope to provide immediate access to medical treatments, vaccinations, education on sanitation and hygiene, distribute birthing kits and supply clean drinking water.

We have employed Victor Thon Arop as our community health officer and commenced his job in the middle of December. Victor who is an American citizen received his training in the US and he is more than capable in dealing with tropical diseases. He returned to South Sudan in 2011 to serve the community and has worked with various non-governmental organisations since that time and he is loved by the community. Paul Monyluak Michar Kon has also been nominated as the program director in Ruweng State to facilitate communications and activities relating to partnerships with other organisations, government and local communities. Paul is the headmaster of Biu Primary School in a
small town 25 km away from Akot village. We hope he will also do a great job. Other staff members such as cleaner, security officer and pharmacy assistant will be employed as we commence in January 2017.

Mr Victor Thon Arop, our new nurse assistant at Akot Medical Centre.

 

However, access to drinking water, whether clean or unsafe still remain a critical problem during the dry season. The streams, ponds or pools are dry by December and most people and their animals will move close to the White Nile, Bahr el Ghazal River or Lake No by the beginning of January. Those who choose to remain in Akot village from February have to walk long distances to fetch water mainly for survival until the beginning of June. For the clinic to remain functioning as anticipated during both dry and wet season, Athiolget Women’s & Children’s Health Association Inc. has commenced getting quotes for hand and solar powered water pumps. This will provide an important step forward as clean drinking water will reduce the number of water borne diseases, dehydration, increase community productivity and create a central point for governance. No government officials have ever visited the area and I hope having a clinic and water pump will attract other services such as school, church es, businesses/traders and other government and/or NGOs to the area.

In conclusion, there is a lot of hard work to be done in South Sudan in all sectors of human development. Akot Village is just one of too many neglected and forgotten places in the world. These are places where nothing is recorded, reported, written about or kno wn about and will continue as it is for other centuries to come.

 

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