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A bicycle trip for medicine in South Sudan…

In the town of Mvolo, Sapana Abuyi – who runs a local NGO – shows us to the only health facility; a one story two-roomed concrete building containing what Sapana rather optimistically describes the outpatients department, laboratory, injections area, dispensary, a treatment ward. and dispensary, all jumbled together. The ‘ward’ – in reality – is a mattress on the floor where 3 year old Bileli lies, unconscious on the floor – a drip in her arm.

Her mother tells me that her husband took them by bicycle the 20kms from their village where there is no medical help at all. However rudimentary this clinic looks, the health worker can do an on-the-spot test for malaria, and administer life-saving drugs.

Malaria is one of the biggest killers of kids in this area – the tropical climate & surrounding green woodland making for ideal mosquito territory. Bileli’s mum tells me that they only have one mosquito net at home – and that, in fact, another of her children is sick – but they had no room on the bicycle for them all.

In this remote rural area, it is the simplest of illnesses which prove fatal for children – as well as malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia are also rife. Soon Save the Children and Sapana’s SIDF organisation will start training local people to administer drugs themselves – so there is no need to make the arduous journey to the nearest town.

This village-level approach has delivered real improvements to child mortality in other parts of Africa and in South America, now the aim is to try it in South Sudan.

Later, we are given a tour of the sparkling new health clinic, which is supposed to replace the old one. The cluster of newly concreted and painted buildings, with light airy rooms, remains – as yet – unused. We are told – ruefully – that when the buildings were put up, no-one asked the contractors to install electricity.

Dreams of a mini-operating theatre have been abandoned…even the funds to find a small generator to pump water to the wards had to be scraped together. Still, the plan is to get started – a grand opening is scheduled for a couple of days time…possibly.

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