Renewed violence in South Sudan has begun a fresh cycle of displacement for thousands of people.
Since December 2013, more than two million people have fled their homes. You can help them by making a donation to our appeal today.
Earlier this month, armed confrontations in the capital, Juba, forced many organisations to suspend their work.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) provides protection and assistance to victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence around the world. It is often the part of International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement which is first on the scene when fighting breaks out.
So it was for Colin Berry, an anaesthetist from Exeter who works with the Red Cross. Colin is recently back from a mission to the town of Raja in the north west of the country. Shooting and looting in Raja has recently injured many people and sent scores into the bush to hide.
‘We made splints from cardboard boxes’
Colin had flown to Raja following reports of intense fighting. Together with Rahul – a surgeon from London who also works with the Red Cross – and local staff, they found a number of people with serious gunshot injuries.
“We were met by South Sudanese troops who showed us to the shade of a wing of a long crashed aircraft,” said Colin.
“A group of 20 or so townspeople and soldiers were doing their best to care for 17 civilians and soldiers all of whom had sustained gunshot wounds four days earlier.”
With very limited medical facilities in Raja, there was little choice except to evacuate all patients to Juba Military Hospital the following day.
“With help from the pilots and the local people, we made splints from cardboard boxes and tape. Intravenous fluids were given to severely dehydrated patients.
“Local caretakers were always willing to hold an IV bag or help carry stretchers. We did some initial first aid on a combination of chest, abdominal and soft tissue wounds before we loaded up the planes.”
Tackling fractures by head-torch
But by now, a change in the security situation meant they couldn’t go to Juba. With night setting in they decided to bring all the patients back to the nearby town of Wau before returning them to Juba the next day.
Colin said: “We were able to load up the planes with several stretchers and sitting [the] wounded in a planned and calm way – despite the attempts of a few non-injured locals to come on board.”
With all available vehicles mustered on the airfield they then unloaded all the patients and went in convoy to Wau Teaching Hospital.
“We worked until late in the evening using head torches in the absence of electricity. We fitted several splints for fractures and all the patients needed antibiotics and pain relief.
The team then made the decision on which patients could remain in Wau, before organising the needs of those who would be transferred to Juba in the morning.
Surgery at last
“Once we had finished, the food and drinks organised by the team in Wau was a truly welcome sight. Sleep came easily to us all in our rapidly organised accommodation,” said Colin.
A total of 13 patients were taken back to Juba the next day. Two were taken immediately to the operating theatre. The rest were treated on the ward prior to planned surgery over the subsequent days.
“This was a great team effort providing care for a total of 24 war wounded soldiers and civilians over one weekend.”
- Both Colin and Rahul have been co-opted to the ICRC from the British Red Cross. Read more about the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
- Over 2 million people in South Sudan are in desperate need of the most basic support – food, clean water and shelter. You can help them by making a donation today.
- Photos © ICRC / Jacob Zocherman and Alyona Synenko.
- South Sudan Red Cross volunteers: Dedicated to the cause despite personal loss.