MEDICAL CARE IN CHALLENGING SETTINGS
Médecins Sans Frontières works in some of the most volatile regions on earth where ongoing conflict, population movements and unstable political situations can make the provision of medical assistance extremely challenging.
In unstable places like these, we are often the only organisation with the resources, skills and logistical experience to be able to respond to medical emergencies on a large scale.
It’s absolutely imperative that Médecins Sans Frontières remains impartial from all political, economic and religious pressures. This neutrality gives us the freedom to access thousands of people in desperate need of medical assistance.
MEDICAL NEEDS IN SOUTH SUDAN
Malnutrition is more than just hunger. It’s a serious medical condition caused by a diet that lacks essential nutrients. And it’s especially dangerous in young children, contributing to one in three deaths of children under five.
Advances in nutrition science – such as ready-to-use therapeutic foods – allow us to treat many malnourished children as outpatients. This means we can treat more patients with severe malnutrition who require inpatient care or hospitalisation.
Médecins Sans Frontières treated more than 13,800 people with severe malnutrition across the country in 2010.
Maternal and child health
For women and babies in South Sudan, childbirth isn’t just dangerous. It can be deadly for both mother and child.
South Sudan has some of the worst maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. A staggering one in seven women here die during pregnancy or childbirth. And one in seven children die before they turn five.
Providing pregnant women and their babies access to skilled birth attendants, drugs and medical equipment can help overcome life-threatening complications. But in South Sudan – where more than 75% of the population has no access to even basic medical care – maternal and child health remains an ongoing medical crisis.
Last year, South Sudan faced its biggest outbreak of kala azar in more than eight years. This parasitic disease – also known as visceral leishmaniasis – is transmitted through sandfly bites, and its symptoms can include prolonged fever, weight loss, vomiting and enlarged liver and spleen.
With timely treatment, kala azar can be cured in around 90-95% of cases. Yet without this treatment, it almost always proves fatal.
Since the outbreak began, Médecins Sans Frontières treated more than 2,700 people for kala azar – more than eight times the number of patients we saw in 2009. And with tens of thousands of displaced South Sudanese people now returning to areas where the disease is endemic, 2011 could see even more people at risk.
After more than half a century of conflict with the North, South Sudan is set to declare its independence in July 2011, following a referendum earlier this year where the majority of southerners voted for secession from Sudan. But despite the peace agreement that was signed in 2005, violence remains a fact of life for much of the population.
Médecins Sans Frontières continues to see many patients with violent trauma injuries, including young children with head injuries and gunshot wounds.
As well as placing additional demands on our emergency surgical teams, the continuing insecurity makes it even more difficult for people in South Sudan to get the medical care they need.
Outbreaks of violence can make it too dangerous for people to travel to hospitals or clinics, and leave us with no choice but to suspend mobile clinics. And when conflict forces people to flee their homes, they become more vulnerable to disease – and even less able to access medical assistance.
Snapshot of a Crisis: See our response in South Sudan
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