South Sudan

I decided today that my hand is not the most exciting topic, though it does occupy my mind say 85% of the time!  So… I thought I'd share a bit about my life prior to this one…

Between 2004-2006, I volunteered for MSF.  Prior to that, I had worked with a variety of other, lesser known ngo's.


South Sudan and Liberia were my two assignments with MSF.  Both were difficult for me, and while I will go back to Africa I probably will not go with them, or for as long as I did…


Prior to going to Sudan, I wasn't an Africa virgin.  I'd done work in Eritrea and also the Delta in Nigera.  I was arrested in Eritrea for an unknown reason…and then released again after some discussion with the surgeon I worked with…and Nigeria, especially the Delta region really isn't for Sissies either.  But none of that prepared me for South Sudan.  No electricity, people living in mud huts for real, no running water, living in a tent, essentially outside for 6 months was definitely different…..

South Sudan is more likethe Africa that most Americans imagine.  While the only really wild animals I saw were interesting birds, lotsa snakes, and an errant hedgehog, it really was an entirely different world.

To get to my assignment I got to fly from Lokichoggio 

To Akuem, South Sudan in this contraption:


Which for me was not so nice or fun.  The plane, however would become something I totally looked forward to because it grought the mail, the food, our emails and the beer.  The plane came every two weeks. So  occasionally we would run out of stuff and get quite cranky. My favorites were pringles and soda… sooooo healthy yeah?

My job was to manage the Feeding Center of TFC s it was known.  The TFC was about a kilometre away from the rest of the hospital.  Of course there were bikes availablem but I can not ride one.  And these were huge Chinese bikes.  They all looked as if they were made for Yao Ming!

As an Emergency Room nurse, the TFC was sort of a not very exciting job.  You feed the kids… they grow, it can be a bit more complicated, but in general thats it….

My bigger troubles were learning to do things like the work roster, discipline staff, figure out why we were always short of food stocks, and why certain kids never grew at all….why some staff couldn't measure milk, or chart growth correctly….

Even though I thought the job a little boring, there was a lot I didn't know. We get a handoff from the previous expat, but much of that then goes on what that ex-pat knew.  There is also a manual, but as often is the case the manual was pretty general.  It didn't deal with mothers who ate the theraputic milk themselves!!!!

Lucky for me, midway through my time, a real nutrition expert came on as Med-co…She came and made gads of suggestions.  I felt about 2 inches high, but she gave me all the tools to really improve things.  With her permission, I retrained the staff.

Some of these guys did not even know where their stomach was… They were very smart men, but all had had their education disrupted by the 21 year War… They could all read English and couldspeak Englishm the Dinka language, as well as other dialects.  We had a lot of interesting discussions about life in general.  I remember once trying to tell them about where I worked at home.  I had to describe in detail the workings of an elevator.

We had a lot of good times there as well.  I particularly began to enjoy the children…Here is my favorite boy from the outpatient feeding program… bol mau.  He used to come as sit on my lap each visit, which is a big deal because most kids were terrified by me as I wasn't just a little white.  I finally taught Bol how to graph his weight if I put the points in.

This is Bol

And Aneck was another of my favorites.  She had both tuburculosis and malnutrition, which is actually pretty common.  Since we don't have xray equipment there or the Mantoux Test  we used the Crofton Score, which seems to have been fairly accurate, but then again TB is pretty widespread in that area.  Aneck's Mom was amazing.  She did it all right and both her children were cured in a relatively short time.  I was sad to see her go:


So… there's a teeny slice of life for me in South Sudan.  A peace treaty was signed in the middle of my time there, but it really didn't change too much…In general at the point in time when I was there it was pretty safe…occasional shooting of ducks in the night….but nothing overtly bad… In the past yes, but not for me…

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8 thoughts on “South Sudan

  1. Thank you so so much for sharing this. I love reading first hand accounts like this. Congrats for making a difference in someone's life

  2. This is wonderful! How scary it must have been for you to get arrested in Eritrea! Did you ever find out why they would do that? I guess in some countries they don't have to have a reason. I am so impressed with you that you'd give up your time and freedom to help people in this way! It would have broken my heart to see some of what you saw. I agree with Havybeaks …. You ARE amazing!

  3. good question…
    i'm not sure, it ws something I always wanted to do. As a kid, I read a lot and I loved everything I'd read about Africa, soooo…Of course there is the whole "cool" factor…but I'm finding most of us who havereally spent the time, don't talk about it much… hard to explain things.

  4. I always enjoy reading about other cultures, especially in first-hand accounts like this. It must have been an amazing experience being there.

  5. Wow, more power to you Katie. I read this quote somewhere and it inspires me to show kindness to others and I just wanna share it with you… " You have never shown kindness unless you show it to someone who can never give back something to you"…or something to that effect…

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