Evacuations, a vital lifeline for gunshot wounded South Sudanese

  • The phone rings on a Friday afternoon. The ICRC’s contact on the ground in Torit, a town in the south of the country, has requested an evacuation of three children wounded by gunshots. They need to get to a hospital for surgical care and there is no way for them to travel by road. Many roads are inaccessible during the rainy season due to flooding.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • The ICRC team travels to Torit early the next morning. Clara Buelhoff, an ICRC field delegate, is coordinating with the local authorities in Torit. Her job is to ensure safe access for the ICRC plane and that the patients are ready at the airport when the flight arrives.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • Volunteers from the South Sudan Red Cross are assisting in transporting the patients from the medical centre in Torit to the airport. The volunteers are instrumental in translating and explaining to the patients what is happening.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • The three children are siblings – two boys and a girl. The middle boy was shot in the eye and is very sick when he reaches the airport.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • The mother gives water to her son before they board the ICRC plane.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • “Give me a deep breathe. In. Out,” says Konstantin Dzhans. He is an ICRC surgeon working at the Juba Military Hospital where the children will get medical treatment. The girl has a bullet lodged in her chest. She can however still walk and communicate with the surgeon. Every medical evacuation must be done with medical personnel who can ensure continued treatment of the patients.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • In 2017, the ICRC has already surpassed the total number of medical evacuations done in 2016. By September this year, more than 590 medical evacuations had been done across South Sudan, while the total for last year was 471.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • Volunteers of the South Sudan Red Cross carry the injured boy to the ICRC plane.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • Many people help to ensure that the boy is safely boarded onto the plane. The vast majority of the ICRC medical evacuations in South Sudan are done by either plane or helicopter.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • The ICRC plane can carry patients sitting up or laying down on a stretcher. The boy is too weak to sit so he sleeps through the first flight of his life.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • The youngest boy has a superficial gunshot wound in his shoulder. He is evacuated as his two siblings are travelling with their mother and he must stay with them. Clara helps him adjust the headset to muffle the sound of the plane.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • First time in a plane.
  • CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
    Finally in Juba, but not yet at the hospital. The stretcher is transported to an ambulance which is ready and waiting for the patients. The mother travels with the children to get treatment by the ICRC medical personnel working at the Juba Military Hospital.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
15 November 2017

South Sudan is among the countries in the world with the poorest access to health care. Coupled with the ongoing conflict, many people are unable to reach hospitals or medical clinics to get treatment.

This year, ICRC-supported hospitals in South Sudan have received and treated a significantly higher number of wounded people compared to the same period last year. By September, our teams had carried out over 590 medical evacuations, more than the total number in 2016.

The ICRC evacuates weapon wounded people across South Sudan and brings them to hospitals so that they can receive medical care.