Sudan

Sudan: The clinic in the trees

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Sudan (Southern Sudan) - Medair provides regular nutritional assessments and treatment for malnourished children in villages in Southern Sudan.

"Please, can you please come see my son?" pleads the man, out-of-breath, as he rushes toward Medair's health staff.

The health team is just packing up their car after a long, hot day in Paloich. They quickly ask the man where his house is, and whether he can bring his son to them. The man does not even pause to answer. He turns and runs.

Moments later, the man returns with his wife and two-year-old son Ahmed. The boy has a swollen belly, high fever, and is breathing rapidly. Rhonda Eikelboom, Medair's Medical Coordinator for Southern Sudan, listens to the boy's lungs, and asks the mother whether Ahmed is still eating and drinking.

"One in five children in Southern Sudan dies before the age of five," said Rhonda later that day, "and I was just hoping that Ahmed wouldn't be one of them. But I was standing under some trees, with nothing more than a stethoscope to make a diagnosis!"

In Melut County, one of Medair's health care priorities is the treatment and prevention of malnutrition in children. Under-nutrition is responsible for over one-third of all child deaths worldwide (WHO), and it continues to afflict many children in Southern Sudan.

Medair teams travel from village to village, assessing children for malnutrition. Young ones who are moderately malnourished receive supplementary food rations and are reassessed every two weeks, while the severely malnourished are admitted to a Primary Health Care Clinic (PHCC) where they receive special food and close observation. Many of these children are very sick from other illnesses, so their restorative time in a PHCC allows them to receive the medical treatment that can nurture them back to health.

On this day, Medair's team drives the bumpy, dusty road from Melut to Paloich. The village of Paloich happens to be located on a huge oilfield, and its massive new oil refinery dwarves the small mud huts in town. The population of Paloich has swelled since the refinery began production, and many jobs have been created, but for those without work, their problems have grown. There is simply not enough affordable food in the market for all of Paloich's residents, and as a result, one in every five children is malnourished.

When the health team arrives in Paloich and begins unloading the vehicle, mothers and their children soon start appearing on foot from every corner of the village. There is no health facility in town yet, so Medair sets up a makeshift clinic in the shade of some trees. Alice Wyatt, Medair's Nutritionist, begins weighing the children with a scale that is slung from a sturdy tree branch

"How are your children feeding?" she asks every mother. "Are there any problems?"

Alice listens closely and offers the mothers practical advice on breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices, while also answering any nutrition-related questions.

Meanwhile, Rhonda checks the children for diarrhoea, fever, and other medical problems. Children with a fever receive a finger-prick to check for malaria, while first-time admissions to Medair's "clinic in the trees" are given deworming tablets and Vitamin A droplets. Most of the children have already received their vaccinations, but the nurse still checks their status, and encourages every mother to make sure that their children are fully vaccinated.

It turns out to be a great day for young Khamis. Four months ago, the three-year-old boy had to be admitted to Medair's nutrition programme. Every two weeks, he was reassessed, weighed, and given supplementary food rations. And now, thankfully, Khamis has gained enough weight to be discharged. The Medair team share a warm goodbye with Khamis and his mother, and leave them with a final ration of food.

The success of Medair's malnutrition interventions in Melut - along with the ongoing incidence of under-nutrition in the region - have now prompted us to expand our coverage to the north, to Maban County. There, we are screening and referring malnourished children for treatment, as we establish a sustainable nutrition programme with partner agencies.

In a quiet moment of the day, Rhonda pauses to marvel at this little clinic in the trees. Despite some shade, the sun still burns down on them, and sweat persistently drips from her face. Mothers and their children wait to be seen on mats spread out under a nearby tree.

"It's something to see - for people and animals too," she said. "Cows stand by curiously a couple of metres away, and some goats gathered all their courage to come close and check out the food. We chased them away very quickly!"

As the day draws to a close in Paloich, and as the hard-working Medair staff are preparing to leave and dreaming of cool showers, they are met by the worried father of sick Ahmed. Rhonda checks Ahmed for symptoms of dehydration, but is unable to provide a complete diagnosis because of the limited equipment in the temporary clinic.

"I gave him antibiotics against the fever and some deworming tablets," she said, "and I urged his mother to come to the clinic in the next village if Ahmed does not get any better soon."

Medair's temporary clinic works extremely well for assessing nourishment and treating common ailments, but cases like Ahmed's point out the need for access to more permanent heath facilities in villages throughout Southern Sudan.

And so, in May of this year, Medair opened a Primary Health Care Unit (PHCU) in Paloich, replacing our intermittent clinic in the trees with a health building that is open five days a week (and for emergencies on Saturday and Sunday), and sees 40 to 50 patients every day. At this busy PHCU, children are still screened for malnutrition, but people of all ages are admitted and treated for a host of common illnesses.

"When I started working for Medair, it was quite a challenge at times, especially at this PHCU in Paloich, because it was so busy," said Liselotte Eberhard, Medair's PHCU Manager. "But it has been worth every minute, especially when I see people walking home having received their treatment. What touches me is that patients keep saying that with the PHCU in town, it has become so much easier for everyone to get proper treatment!"

"Please, can you please come see my son?" pleads the man, out-of-breath, as he rushes toward Medair's health staff.

The health team is just packing up their car after a long, hot day in Paloich. They quickly ask the man where his house is, and whether he can bring his son to them. The man does not even pause to answer. He turns and runs.

Moments later, the man returns with his wife and two-year-old son Ahmed. The boy has a swollen belly, high fever, and is breathing rapidly. Rhonda Eikelboom, Medair's Medical Coordinator for Southern Sudan, listens to the boy's lungs, and asks the mother whether Ahmed is still eating and drinking.

"One in five children in Southern Sudan dies before the age of five," said Rhonda later that day, "and I was just hoping that Ahmed wouldn't be one of them. But I was standing under some trees, with nothing more than a stethoscope to make a diagnosis!"

In Melut County, one of Medair's health care priorities is the treatment and prevention of malnutrition in children. Under-nutrition is responsible for over one-third of all child deaths worldwide (WHO), and it continues to afflict many children in Southern Sudan.

Medair teams travel from village to village, assessing children for malnutrition. Young ones who are moderately malnourished receive supplementary food rations and are reassessed every two weeks, while the severely malnourished are admitted to a Primary Health Care Clinic (PHCC) where they receive special food and close observation. Many of these children are very sick from other illnesses, so their restorative time in a PHCC allows them to receive the medical treatment that can nurture them back to health.

On this day, Medair's team drives the bumpy, dusty road from Melut to Paloich. The village of Paloich happens to be located on a huge oilfield, and its massive new oil refinery dwarves the small mud huts in town. The population of Paloich has swelled since the refinery began production, and many jobs have been created, but for those without work, their problems have grown. There is simply not enough affordable food in the market for all of Paloich's residents, and as a result, one in every five children is malnourished.

When the health team arrives in Paloich and begins unloading the vehicle, mothers and their children soon start appearing on foot from every corner of the village. There is no health facility in town yet, so Medair sets up a makeshift clinic in the shade of some trees. Alice Wyatt, Medair's Nutritionist, begins weighing the children with a scale that is slung from a sturdy tree branch

"How are your children feeding?" she asks every mother. "Are there any problems?"

Alice listens closely and offers the mothers practical advice on breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices, while also answering any nutrition-related questions.

Meanwhile, Rhonda checks the children for diarrhoea, fever, and other medical problems. Children with a fever receive a finger-prick to check for malaria, while first-time admissions to Medair's "clinic in the trees" are given deworming tablets and Vitamin A droplets. Most of the children have already received their vaccinations, but the nurse still checks their status, and encourages every mother to make sure that their children are fully vaccinated.

It turns out to be a great day for young Khamis. Four months ago, the three-year-old boy had to be admitted to Medair's nutrition programme. Every two weeks, he was reassessed, weighed, and given supplementary food rations. And now, thankfully, Khamis has gained enough weight to be discharged. The Medair team share a warm goodbye with Khamis and his mother, and leave them with a final ration of food.

The success of Medair's malnutrition interventions in Melut - along with the ongoing incidence of under-nutrition in the region - have now prompted us to expand our coverage to the north, to Maban County. There, we are screening and referring malnourished children for treatment, as we establish a sustainable nutrition programme with partner agencies.

In a quiet moment of the day, Rhonda pauses to marvel at this little clinic in the trees. Despite some shade, the sun still burns down on them, and sweat persistently drips from her face. Mothers and their children wait to be seen on mats spread out under a nearby tree.

"It's something to see - for people and animals too," she said. "Cows stand by curiously a couple of metres away, and some goats gathered all their courage to come close and check out the food. We chased them away very quickly!"

As the day draws to a close in Paloich, and as the hard-working Medair staff are preparing to leave and dreaming of cool showers, they are met by the worried father of sick Ahmed. Rhonda checks Ahmed for symptoms of dehydration, but is unable to provide a complete diagnosis because of the limited equipment in the temporary clinic.

"I gave him antibiotics against the fever and some deworming tablets," she said, "and I urged his mother to come to the clinic in the next village if Ahmed does not get any better soon."

Medair's temporary clinic works extremely well for assessing nourishment and treating common ailments, but cases like Ahmed's point out the need for access to more permanent heath facilities in villages throughout Southern Sudan.

And so, in May of this year, Medair opened a Primary Health Care Unit (PHCU) in Paloich, replacing our intermittent clinic in the trees with a health building that is open five days a week (and for emergencies on Saturday and Sunday), and sees 40 to 50 patients every day. At this busy PHCU, children are still screened for malnutrition, but people of all ages are admitted and treated for a host of common illnesses.

"When I started working for Medair, it was quite a challenge at times, especially at this PHCU in Paloich, because it was so busy," said Liselotte Eberhard, Medair's PHCU Manager. "But it has been worth every minute, especially when I see people walking home having received their treatment. What touches me is that patients keep saying that with the PHCU in town, it has become so much easier for everyone to get proper treatment!"

Medair brings life-saving relief and rehabilitation in disasters, conflict areas, and other crises by working alongside the most vulnerable. Its internationally recruited staff are motivated by their Christian faith to care for people in need, providing practical and compassionate support, regardless of race, religion, or politics. Founded in 1989, Medair has an unwavering commitment to bring hope to the world's most vulnerable.