Some basic background to update people on our project here in Sudan: there is a team of doctors from MGH who have formed a partnership with the Government of Southern Sudan to help bolster training in newborn and maternal healthcare. We are here to do trainings, and I am working mostly on assessments of the hospitals and training curriculum.
Brief background on Southern Sudan & the war: Sudan has been at war for some 20 years. It reached a relatively stable peace in 2004, but much of the infrastructure and systems have been destroyed (or never had a chance to be built). This is a vast oversimplification, but the war pitted the north against the south, in a fued for oil, land, and religious rights (a Muslim regime in the North vs. a Christian/Animist South). Today, Southern Sudan is fighting for autonomy from the North, and the right to profit from its own vast oil reserves, which the North has saught to own and exploit. Southern Sudan has the highest rates of maternal and infant morality in the world.
I am writing from Juba Teaching Hospital's resource center. We got in yesterday afternoon, and have been meeting with different administrators and touring the town and hospital facilities. One of the Ministers of Health (there are 6 total) picked us up from the airport. He is warm and jolly, and wears orange crocks with a matching Africana shirt.
Juba is much smaller than I thought it would be- I definitely would not refer to it as a city, although it's possible that the population is dispersed and I have been deceived.
The hospital itself is very big- more than 10 buildings altogether. Initially it's pretty overwhelming. The pediatrics ward has so many beautiful children, who are able at the same time to inspire, and bring a great sadness with this pervasive inevitability of disease. There are mothers and babies all over the hospital grounds. Many are outside washing the clothes and bedding. The waiting line for the ER is more like an extended crowd pushing towards the end of a long, winding hallway. A western government recently donated five incubators, which remain unused and sit in the maternity ward taking up space. One of our tasks is going to be to train people in their use. I am fascinated by how western technology is given and received in such settings. Equipment without proper training is a burden rather than a relief effort.
We are staying at UNFPA housing, which is enclosed in a giant UN compound. It is filled with overland vehicles and office buildings adapted from shipping containers. My room has AC but no lights. Not a bad trade off!
Pictures are coming soon, but internet is really slow so maybe not with this posting. I'm also trying to be sensitive to taking photos in the hospital and don't feel comfortable with it at this point.
Tomorrow we will start rounds and trainings. I will write more as I am able!