Direct Relief Aims to Alleviate Medical Pressures from War, Famine in South Sudan

Dr. Joseph Dumba, of the Healing Kadi Foundation, stands with children in Kajo Keji, South Sudan, in 2014. While the country endures war and famine, Direct Relief is actively supporting medical partners in South Sudan administering critical medical care. Direct Relief recently shipped over $600,000 worth of supplies to the Healing Kadi Foundation, including wound care supplies, blood pressure medicines and other critical products.

The tragedy of South Sudan is among the most well-known in humanitarian and foreign policy circles. Established to great fanfare and aid commitments as the world’s newest independent nation in July of 2011, South Sudan has since fallen into perpetual emergency. The culprits are many, including war, ethnic conflicts and endemic problems of poverty, poor health care, sparse population, rugged geography, and lack of fresh water or functional sanitation.

As of February 2017, the United Nations formally declared famine in parts of Southern Sudan. The global Famine Early Warning System (Fews.net) forecasts food security crisis conditions over roughly 80 percent of the country throughout the period from February to May this year. In the Northern Bahr and Unity states, food security crisis verges on catastrophe. Many households in these areas are unable to cope with basic needs on a daily basis absent rapid and large-scale humanitarian assistance.

The South Sudanese famine is an extreme crisis in its own right, producing severe malnutrition throughout areas long considered safe from conflict, along with deep physical and emotional stresses for children and pregnant women in particular.

But famine doesn’t occur in a vacuum; it is produced by complex social forces and abetted by the state failure.

In the context of the ongoing South Sudanese war, the famine is both the product and the accelerant of larger systemic failures cascading throughout the country’s social life. In terms of infectious disease alone, South Sudan has within the past year been hit by significant outbreaks of cholera, malaria, leishmaniasis and hemorrhagic fever, among other conditions.

Each one of these disease outbreaks has required targeted and coordinated international public health emergency response based on the degrees to which national and local health care systems have been overwhelmed.

In this stark context, Direct Relief is stepping up efforts to bolster the South Sudanese medical system in some of the most at-risk areas by supporting the professional medical outreach teams of Dr. Joseph Dumba and the Healing Kadi Foundation. Dr. Dumba came to the United States as a refugee in the late 1990s and put himself through medical school. He formed the Healing Kadi Foundation in 2013 as a way to give back to his home country some of what he gained through his life as a refugee in the United States.

Based in the southern district of Kajo Kadi on the Ugandan border, an area of critical food insecurity and persistent low-level violence, Healing Kadi sends teams of medical professionals to remote areas to provide high-quality frontline health care for the most vulnerable. Often these mobile medical workers are the only linkage between remote communities and formal health care provision of any kind.

Since 2013, Direct Relief has provided roughly $3 million of life-saving medicines to communities in Kajo Kadi. The current shipment to Healing Kadi, which will be received in country by Mar. 15, is valued at over $600,000 and includes critical medical materials for wound care, blood pressure control, anti-infective agents and birth control. Corporate partners like GlaxoSmithKline, Ethicon, Inc., and Teva have all made critical donations to support ongoing healthcare in South Sudan.

Together with Dr. Dumba’s mobile medical outreach efforts, the materials in this shipment will go towards strengthening the operations of the foundation’s clinic, helping to build a functional referral network in one of the world’s toughest conflict zones.