South Sudan: Patients dying after fighting compels medical staff to leave hospital

10 July 2015

Geneva/Juba - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is deeply concerned about the deaths in South Sudan of more than a dozen people following clashes that forced doctors and nurses to vacate a hospital where advanced surgeries had been taking place.

On the morning of Sunday 5 July, a hospital in Upper Nile State supported by an ICRC surgical team was caught in the crossfire of heavy fighting in Kodok. As a direct result, two people -one of whom was a patient- were killed and 11 people injured. The hospital sustained material damage.

Because of the dangers of the in-close fighting, doctors and nurses left the hospital on Sunday. Since then and in the absence of surgical expertise, an additional 11 patients have died. Forty people, mainly wounded in the fighting, have arrived at the hospital in need of medical care.

Given the generalized sense of insecurity prevailing in parts of Upper Nile state, we've temporarily suspended our medical mission in Kodok. Our mobile surgical team will only be able to return once the security situation improves.

Franz Rauchenstein, the ICRC's head of delegation for South Sudan.

A team of eight, five of whom were doctors and nurses has been temporarily relocated to the capital, Juba.

The approximately 70 patients being treated in Kodok Hospital before the fighting are also left with minimal health services. Kodok Hospital normally serves a community of tens of thousands of people, with 500 to 700 consultations per week.

Konrad Bark, an ICRC delegate who had been working in Kodok, noted that both international and national health care providers have been forced to leave the hospital over safety concerns even as the number of incoming patients is rising.

And so the hospital is virtually empty of any qualified personnel to provide quality care at a time when it is most needed. Very sadly, the situation has gone from bad to worse as a result of this incident.

Konrad Bark, an ICRC delegate who had been working in Kodok

On a number of occasions and in many towns and villages across the country, healthcare facilities have been damaged, while health workers and patients have regrettably at times been either injured or killed. A consequence of the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, this ultimately underlines the need to reinforce the respect and protection of the medical mission by all parties involved.

The ICRC continues to remind all warring parties of the precautions that must be taken in the conduct of military operations to avoid and minimize loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian structures. The ICRC reiterates the warring parties' obligation to respect and protect medical personnel and medical facilities.

For further information, please contact:

Layal Horanieh, ICRC Juba, tel: + (211) 912 360 023
Jason Straziuso, ICRC media spokesman, Nairobi, tel: +254 733 622 026
Aurélie Lachant, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 22 71 or +41 79 217 32 17