MSF teams wade through a flooded village to deliver medicine to an ICCM site in Abyei.
South Sudan

Healing hearts in Abyei

A story from Isaac Buay, MSF multimedia manager based in Juba

“On 31 July 2023, I set foot in Abyei Special Administrative Area (ASAA), commonly known as ‘the box’, a region in South Sudan that has been plagued by conflict and left its people in desperate need of medical aid. As a member of the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), I accompanied Sean Sutton, a photographer contracted by our communications team, to document the crucial mission of MSF providing healthcare to those who have long been cut off from such services.

There are 17 Integrated Community Case Management (ICCM) sites, each not less than an hour’s drive from the main hospital in Abyei. Each site has two volunteers trained by MSF teams in Abyei. MSF’s outreach team only goes to these sites to deliver medicine, record data and refer severely sick patients to the main hospital.

With Abyei being a war-torn region, many remote areas are almost completely cut off, making it nearly impossible for people to access healthcare facilities. Floods pose a great threat during the rainy seasons, while conflict poses another in the dry season. Equipped with medical supplies and a purposeful vision, our MSF teams travel long distances, crossing unforgiving terrain to reach villages and communities that are desperate for help.

After a two-hour walk to one of the health sites, the sight that greeted us was heart-wrenching. Families were living in makeshift shelters, their strength challenged by the harsh realities of life in the village. The outreach team delivered much-needed medicines to combat malaria, diarrhoea and malnutrition. Many lives are saved daily by these community health volunteers, breathing hope into the hearts of the people of these villages.

MSF team interacts with children during a site visit to one of the Integrated Community Case Management (ICCM) sites in Abyei Administrative Area.
As I look towards the future, I am determined to carry the lessons I've learned and share them with the world, hoping that no community is left without the care its people deserve Isaac Buay, MSF multimedia manager based in Juba

The main hospital

While MSF’s mobile clinics cater to the immediate healthcare needs of these remote communities, MSF also provides secondary healthcare services at the main hospital in Abyei. The hospital is a beacon of hope, a place where lives are transformed, and healing takes place. MSF doctors, nurses and support staff work tirelessly, dedicating their expertise to a community that has long been neglected.

Amidst the already dire situation in Abyei, a new challenge has arisen: an arrival of returnees and refugees fleeing Sudan's ongoing fighting. Families displaced from their homes in Sudan have sought refuge in Abyei, hoping for safety and a chance to rebuild their shattered lives.

MSF teams have witnessed firsthand the desperation and urgency among these newly arrived people. Many suffered injuries in Sudan and are in dire need of medical attention on arrival in Abyei. All have endured long and unsafe journeys, often lacking access to even the most basic healthcare services.

With each act of providing medical care, MSF continues to support those who have been forgotten and left behind.

Abyei may be just one chapter in our journey, but the experience of working with MSF in Abyei will forever be etched in my heart, serving as a constant reminder of the power of humanity.

As I look towards the future, I am determined to carry the lessons I've learned and share them with the world, hoping that no community is left without the care its people deserve."

In 2023, MSF completes four decades of its medical and humanitarian assistance in the region that is now South Sudan. We run one of our largest humanitarian assistance programmes worldwide in the country, offering medical services in two administrative areas and seven of the total ten states of the country in 2023.

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