20 year-old Nyakuma is one of three mothers who gave birth on Christmas day at the military hospital in Tomping, Juba, South Sudan. Her baby girl, born in the early hours of the 25th, does not yet have a name – or a home.
Nyakuma and her husband have been living at the UNMISS compound for eight days. “Conditions are very difficult,” she says, “It is dirty and there is no shelter for us. We have to sleep in the open on the ground.”
She and her baby are both doing well and will be able to stay at the hospital – where they have a mattress on the floor – for four days. After that, with the hospital so cramped, they will have to go back out into the camp. For now, at least, Nyakuma feels safe, “I am so grateful to be here at the UNMISS hospital to have my baby.”
“We don’t normally deliver babies”
Doctors in military hospitals don’t normally deliver a lot of babies, but at the small hospital that serves the Tomping, Juba, peacekeeping base of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, they are suddenly getting a lot of practice.
More than 30 babies have been born at the base’s hospital in the ten days since the conflict began in South Sudan. During this time, 10,000 people have fled to the base for shelter and are living in the open without enough food or clean water.
Overall, an estimated 194,000 people have fled their homes because of the violence; the majority of them women and children.
Too exhausted to count patients
The doctors at the Tomping base, soldiers themselves from the Cambodian army, are used to treating the ailments of soldiers.
“For the first few days we were treating the injuries of those who had been hurt outside,” says Lt. Col Lv Rui, who is in charge of the hospital. “Now, we are seeing lots of cases of malaria, sore throats and flu and diarrhoea.”
Rui says over the last ten days they have treated some 900 civilians, but “We have not even tried to keep count of how many children are among those we’ve been treating, we are just too busy and too exhausted for that kind of record-keeping.”
Another problem for the hospital has been the lack of paediatric medicines as they normally only treat adults. UNICEF is providing children’s medicines to UNMISS hospitals in South Sudan, as well as providing basic services (food, clean water, protection) to all affected children.