South Sudan: Lucky to Be Alive

23 August 2017

South Sudan: Lucky to Be Alive

When you hear about Adiew’s life, it might be hard to think of her as lucky.

When she was 22, Adiew fled from violent conflicts near her home with her husband and four children to reach the Mingkaman displacement settlement on the shores of the Nile River. She hasn’t seen her husband since; he left in search of work and hasn’t returned. A year later, she lost a daughter to malaria; her voice breaks as she speaks about her loss.

Three years have now passed. Still in Mingkaman, Adiew works hard to find enough food for her children, but they rarely eat more than one meal a day: “I collect water lilies, which we eat.” 

Yet she counts herself lucky. Adiew survived an infection of cholera, one of the deadliest diseases in South Sudan. She was able to reach the hospital in time and was successfully treated. “It’s a very, very dangerous disease. It kills a lot of people,” she says. “People are really suffering in Mingkaman. The number of cases is too high.”

South Sudan faces the longest and most widespread cholera outbreak since its independence in 2011. The highly contagious waterborne disease can kill within hours. “The people in Tar, for example, only have dirty water from the swamps to drink,” says Dr Liz Lewis, Medair relief worker. “At the same time, the swamps are also used for defecation. This forms a major source of contamination. With very few health services available in the area, many lives are at immediate risk of being lost.”

In Ayod, Medair set up a cholera treatment unit, and worked to ensure access to safe water, along with sanitation and hygiene promotion. We’re conducting mass Oral Cholera Vaccine campaigns in South Sudan because sometimes short-term solutions are needed to save lives. These vaccines, given in one or two doses, can help protect someone for up to five years.

In February, Medair vaccinated 30,772 people in two days against cholera in a very remote and difficult-to-access area. Medair is now vaccinating 68,000 people in Mingkaman. “We need to transport in tens of thousands of vials and keep them cold. It’s a major, exhausting undertaking, but knowing that 68,000 people will be protected is worth all the effort!” says Diana, Medair relief worker.

It’s daunting to see so much suffering and not be able to do more to help people like Adiew. Yet, for now, we have been able to support her and her children with a potentially life-saving vaccine. “I’m happy with the vaccines and I appreciate you,” says Adiew.

Her sincere gratitude is a reminder that even small actions like this can make a big difference. Adiew wakes every day with an empty stomach, far from her husband, and yet keeps holding onto her faith that one day things will be better. Her love for her children and her strong will to fight for their survival shine through. 

Want to see our cholera vaccination team in action? Check out this short video from Medair South Sudan.

Medair’s work in South Sudan is made possible with support from European Union, US Agency for International Development, UK aid from the UK Government, South Sudan Humanitarian Fund, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, US Department of State, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in partnership with Tear NL and through the Dutch Relief Alliance Joint Response for South Sudan, and generous private donors.

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.

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