Live Strong in Sudan - Meeting Asunta

In Sudan, which is located in north-east Africa, conflict situations have continued for more than 20 years and has generated approximately 1.8 million internally displaced people and about 200,000 refugees. To respond to the serious humanitarian crisis, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent has been conducting various activities including medical services, provision of food and water, manufacturing of artificial limbs and legs and the operation of rehabilitation centers. The Japanese Red Cross Society dispatched Ms. Chiyuki Yoshida, a chief nurse of the Japanese Red Cross Wakayama Medical Center, to Juba Teaching Hospital in Sudan twice: from May 2004 through March 2005 and June 2006 through June 2007. The following is a report from Ms Yoshida

One day, I was awakened by a message from a radio operator at 3 a.m. I got a surgeon and an anesthetist out of bed, as they were taking a nap, and we rushed for the Juba teaching hospital on a four-wheel-drive vehicle. We drove through the dark roads without street lamps, passed several checkpoints of the government's military and finally found the dim light of the hospital. When we arrived at the hospital, nearly 30 injured people were waiting. In the predawn darkness, lit up by headlights of vehicles, the surgical team started the triage classification of the injured to prioritize the treatment and carrying-in of them. With the approach of dawn, we clearly witnessed the moaning people, lying on the ground and their families, upset and crying, and soldiers in muddy uniforms stained with blood in the patio area. There were more than 80 injured people. We worked with local nurses to carry in the injured, depending on the degree of their injuries, prepare the operating room, carry out intravenous drip kits, bandages, stretchers, blankets and other equipment from the emergency supplies warehouse.

There was a five-year-old girl called Asunta among the patients who underwent emergency surgery. Asunta was shot in the chest and thigh, barely surviving the surgery. However, her parents and younger sister were dead. The only other survivor was her seven-year-old brother. One month after the incident, Asunta was informed of the death of her parents, but she could not accept this, saying that the hospital had taken her mother away. Under such circumstances, her brother made every effort to take care of her and assist in her rehabilitation. No one but her brother gave her a sense of security. Nurses could not help crying every time they saw this scene.

One day, I heard a priest talking to patients. "We don't have any medicines nor money to cure diseases. But, I will pray for you, and with the Lord, I will always be with you. Tears will blur tomorrow, so please do not cry. For the future of Sudan and you, let's believe that an unclouded tomorrow will come. So, let's sing, and keep on smiling." The "unclouded tomorrow" reminds me of Sudan's clear blue sky. His words engergized everyone - exhausted nurses and agonizing patients alike. Later on, Asunta and her elder brother were accommodated to an orphanage behind our hospital.

Two years later, I met Asunta again, but her brother had already died of pneumonia. I mumbled "Little brother, I brought origami and crayons from Japan for you. Two years ago, you drew for the first time in your life. Do you remember? It was a picture of a black sun and people. It really surprised me. I wish I could play with you again." While I reminisced about it, Asunta told me that she would become a daughter of the lady Agnes, and would be able to go to school. Agnes is a nurse at the surgical ward, who lives in the same village as Asunta. She also lost her husband due to the conflict. She is now remarried, and has adopted Asunta together with her own six children.

Maybe this is not only in Sudan, but also in any other country: it is the hopes of parents and adults to put their children into school. Two years ago, many children were not able to go to school, and went begging or vending to help their parents make ends meet. But now, children spend at least three hours a day in school, and after that they help their parents with housework. The children really like their school and studies. I certainly feel that the hope for the future of this country will grow bigger than before. As the priest told, there exists a hope for an unclouded tomorrow.

In addition to the damages due to the civil war, one out of four children in Sudan die from infectious diseases, such as malaria. Medicine for malaria which costs about 250 yen, is still not sufficiently available. We should be well aware of this fact, and as members of the Red Cross Society, I believe we can help in many ways by joining forces.