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Southern Sudan: twice a survivor of war

10-09-2007 Feature

Although the conflict between the southern and the northern regions of Sudan ended in 2005, many of its victims are still striving to rebuild their lives. Mayon Deng, 42, joined the Sudanese army in 1984 and was dismissed in 1996 when he lost his left leg in combat. In November 2006, an attack in Malakal resulted in the amputation of his remaining leg. The ICRC's communication delegate in Juba, Robin Waudo, tells Mayon's story.

The Juba Orthopaedic Workshop 

  The ICRC is working in cooperation with the Government of Southern Sudan through the Juba orthopaedic workshop to assist war wounded amputees and physically disabled persons. The physical rehabilitation programme began in Juba in June 2006 after the closure of the orthopaedic centre in Lopiding Hospital in northern Kenya. Before June 2006, all patients in Southern Sudan were transferred to Lopiding or Khartoum for assistance.  
  • 50% of the patients are victims of war and 21% are landmine victims
  • 4 years and 75 years - the age of the youngest and oldest patients
  • 241 patients assisted in Juba between January and May 2007
  • 19 Sudanese nationals trained in Khartoum, Rwanda and Tanzania as orthopaedic technicians and physiotherapists
  • 100 patients will be assisted every month at the new Juba Physical Rehabilitation Centre currently under construction.
  When he joined the Sudanese army, Mayon, who hails from Malakal, was deployed in Bentiu, Unity State. During a battle in 1996, he suffered a serious injury to his left leg. Together with other casualties, he was evacuated to Yei for medical assistance. After three months of treatment an infection developed, forcing surgeons to amputate his leg below the knee.
" I thought that was the end of my life. I was lost and did not know how to start again, " he explained. He then stayed at the hospital in Yei for seven months to recover.
" When I was released from the hospital, I travelled to my home in Malakal to rejoin my wife and eight children. I was overjoyed to see my family after this harrowing ordeal. " Far from being discouraged, Mayon set up a carpentry workshop and produced furniture to earn a better living.
As he settled into civilian life, he learned about the ICRC and its assistance programme for war wounded amputees. He paid a visit to the ICRC office in Malakal, responsible for coordinating the transfer of war wounded amputees to the national authority for prosthetics and orthotics in Khartoum.
 Increased mobility

With the support of the organization, Mayon managed to travel to Khartoum in 2001. " My sole wish was to walk again without the help of crutches, " he said. His wish was granted there and one month later the former soldier returned to Malakal walking normally with the aid of a prosthesis. Tragically, this was not to be the end of his suffering.
In November 2006 Malakal became the scene of heavy armed fighting. Mayon's home was located near the battle. His family left th e house together with neighbours while he remained to ensure that their property would not be looted. He was eventually forced to flee as hostilities intensified. When he exited the house an explosion seriously wounded his right leg and damaged his artificial leg. After being rescued, he was admitted to Yei hospital once again where his right leg had to be amputated.
  ©ICRC/R. Waudo    
  Mayon Deng walks on his artificial limbs during a physical rehabilitation session at the Juba Orthopaedic Workshop.    
     Back on his feet 

In June 2007, he was transferr ed to the ICRC-supported Juba Orthopaedic Workshop. There he was fitted with the needed prostheses and learned to walk with them.
" When I met Mayon at the orthopaedic workshop, he was exercising his new legs going up and down the yard. He smiled broadly, expressing his happiness at walking once again. A few days later, we accompanied him to the airport to travel to Malakal, " explains ICRC ortho-prosthetist Denver Graham. " His excitement grew bigger with the thought of rejoining his family. A few minutes before take-off, he was talking of the future with great enthusiasm and courage. I am glad to have a job where daily I meet people like Mayon who show incredible strength in overcoming such traumatic ordeals. "
War and peace haven't spared Mayon from becoming a victim both as soldier and civilian, but he has survived the loss of both legs with the assistance of the ICRC. " The smile on his face reflected his triumph over dire circumstances, " said Graham.