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Gumbo, Juba, South Sudan, 31 August 2020 -- At the Don Bosco centre at Juba (South Sudan), where we have a school, a Vocational Training Centre (TVET), a Parish, a Refugee Camp for 15,000 Internally Displaced People (IDP), the Caritas Sisters of Jesus run a health centre that serves the beneficiaries of all our large work in Gumbo. Caritas (Charity) Sisters of Jesus are a member of the Salesian Family since 1986, the Japan born Sisters Congregation (1937) with almost 1000 members is witnessing the Gospel in 16 different countries in all five continents.

How was this health mission in South Sudan started?

St. Vincent De Paul parish, Gumbo was entrusted to the Salesians in 2006 and by 2008 the Salesians began to reside at Gumbo village. Gumbo is located at the centre of 20 villages within the radius of 20 kilometres along the left bank of river Nile while on the right bank is the town of Juba and other villages. There are no proper hospitals or clinics in any of these 20 villages. The nearest one is the hospital of Juba which is in the town. After the establishment of the Salesian parish it was felt that the health care for the people is very important and the we have to do something in this area. At the request of the Sudan Delegation Superior of Salesians of Don Bosco, Caritas Sisters of Jesus (CSJ) accepted to be part of this mission to help in the health sector. Hence, Don Bosco Primary Health Centre was established in 2012. The work started in three small rooms, attending about 30 people daily.

What are the Clinic's regular interventions?

Today we are attending an average of 100 to 200 patients daily in the outpatient unit; serving the needy population in Gumbo and surrounding area such as: Sherikat, IDP (internally displaced people), Nesitu, Mori, Rajaf, Kadoro, Gudele, Juba2, etc. at a very nominal price which people can afford. The majority of the populace who live far away often accesses our services but for those living further they still access the services provided by unscrupulous drug shops that are ill-equipped and expensive.

What is the Mobile Clinic and other interventions?

The other activities that we develop are: Mobile clinic, HIV/AIDS rehabilitation program, nutrition and child health care. Mobile clinic facilities are extended to our parish village chapels such as; Mori, Nisithu, Belinyang and Mafao, etc. This initiative is important because of its preventive potential to communicable diseases such as diarrhoea, dysentery and other water borne diseases that have been the main cause for the suffering and poor health of thousands in South Sudan. Particularly in areas with high population density per square meter of land; with scanty toilets facilities, garbage disposal pits or even running water systems. Shanty towns in Juba and its environs are a typical case scenario for such communicable diseases to spread. At this time, we have succeeded in reaching many more patients who would otherwise not been able to reach our dispensary.

What are the major challenges and sicknesses the Sisters encounter?

Most of the cases we have here are malaria, enteric fever, diarrhoea, brucellosis, skin disease, urinary infection and malnutrition. All these diseases are due to poverty, lack of hygiene and sanitation. People have to walk far to get clean water.

What is the impact of the current Covid19 pandemic?

Now with the pandemic of Covid-19 we are facing many challenges, first of all the poor health care system of the country and lack of prepared health care professionals. Secondly, most of the population lacks an understanding of the pandemic and its seriousness. There are myths about it like, this disease is only for white people or for the rich; that the virus does not survive in the hot climate of South Sudan, that the government is lying about it just to get money from foreign help. Also the lack of information because most of the population has no access to the right source of media.

At the clinic we had 3 days of workshop about the Covid-19 infection, prevention and control. Also there were follow-up seminars and training for our healthcare staff. It is made clear that the country is facing a big challenge to control the pandemic. There are only two laboratories in the whole country able to do the test; there is only one facility with limited bed to keep people in quarantine, four ventilators in the country. Most of the population can’t keep social distance because the numerous family members live in one or two rooms home and live on daily informal job for survival.

What are the challenges and dreams for the future in Gumbo?

We were able to buy a forehead thermometer, gloves and surgical masks and other PPE’s (Personal Protective equipment) to protect ourselves as we treat the people who come to our primary health centre; also we provide proper handwashing facility with soap before entering the health facility.

With the support of generous people from our Salesian Mission offices, we provide essential medications to treat the sick and offer them at very low price and for the poor and IDP’s completely free. Yet, we are still facing serious challenges to have proper lab equipment’s, medicines, medicine store and electricity backup for cold chain medical supplies in our Health Care Centre in Gumbo, Juba.

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