IRC expanding health services to meet needs of returning south Sudanese

GOKMACHAR, SUDAN - August 4, 2005 The International Rescue Committee is setting up a mobile clinic in the remote village of Gokmachar in southern Sudan's Aweil region to provide health services to an increasing number of returnees and the communities receiving them.
The region was on the frontline of the civil war that raged for more than two decades between the northern-based government of Sudan and southern-based rebels. Much of the population fled the region and sought refuge in northern parts of the country. Significant numbers are now returning to devastated communities that have little or no basic services.

During the war, the IRC supported a small clinic that was able to provide medical treatment to the few remaining people in Gokmachar, but most communities in the area have had no health care for the past decade. "The area is very large and the health problems are many," says IRC health officer Simon Kuot. "There are no proper health services anywhere in this community. With the mobile team, we will be able to help the most vulnerable who live in the more remote villages."

The six-person mobile team will travel throughout the region by four-wheel drive vehicle and operate out of a small health post in Gokmachar. Meanwhile, the existing clinic continues to receive patients. "The clinic sees an average of 100 people a day," Kuot says as he performs a rapid malaria test on a young girl shivering from fever.

Most people lining up in front of the mud and straw structure have returned from the Darfur region, where many worked as day-laborers during the years of civil war. "People here suffer from malaria, typhoid, worms, bilharzia, respiratory tract infections, diarrhea and skin diseases," Kuot says. "And hunger is a big problem."

Providing aid in south Sudan since 1989, the IRC is running some 40 health centers and health posts in southern regions.