It was until mid-August this year that I got to know the name Omiling a village with beautiful scenery surrounded by mountains. Omiling came to lime light when residents of Lokiliri village were displaced and fled to Omiling, Opiri and Lirya centre for safety due to armed fighting in their area in early July this year.
It takes 3 hours for a normal person to walk from Omiling to Lirya where the health facility is, sadly, patients must wade through a swamp which can be impassable during rainy season by those already weak. There is no transport or ambulance to take seriously ill, or mothers in labor pain to the health facility. Rarely, a tractor is turned into ambulance to transport patients to the health facility, but majority of the critically ill patients are carried to the health centre by relatives and friends.
This is the dilemma Clementina Jada a mother of 7 months old twin babies, Ochen and Apio and many other internally displaced persons and the host community in Omiling village, Lirya payam Juba County of Central Equatoria State are going through When they get sick. They must walk for more than 3 hours to Lirya PHCC to get them treated which take them a lot of courage to start the journey given the distance and the swamp along the way.
“The health facility is very far, it is difficult to carry my two babies for long distance because I get tired.” Said Celementina 32, a mother of twin babies Ochen and Apio.
On Saturday 24th October 2020, a medical team including yours truly, from The Rescue Initiative South Sudan packed medicines and other medical supplies, chairs and tables required to set up a mobile clinic in two vehicles and set off from their base in Lirya for Omiling 14km away from Lirya centre. The excitement was visibly seen all over the faces of the team, but we barely drove for 3km only to meet a giant swamp locally known as river shubet. That moment the team spirits started to shrink, all came out of the cars and wait if the cars can pass through the water, unfortunately one of the cars got stuck in the middle of the swamp. We all join hands to push and remove it but even then, we were not lucky as more hurdles lie ahead of our journey.
Determination to reach Omiling
After 3 hours of struggle in the mud to get the cars out, we agreed leave the cars behind and walk to Omiling no matter what it takes because mobilization was already done, and patients were already waiting for us. We quickly remove the boxes, chairs and tables and distributed among the team to carry and started the journey in high spirits. The hospitality of the villagers was a big boost for the team as they offered us groundnuts to eat along the way which turned out to be our lunch of the day.
“My daughter has been sick with cough; high temperature and couldn’t sleep at night for the last 3 days, but I didn’t take her to the clinic because I don’t have money for her treatment.” Paskalina narrated to us
“The only health facility we go to is in Lirya, very far. We have to walk for 3 hours to get there. Am so happy that for the first time we can get treatment here in Omiling. I was thinking of how I can take my daughter to Lirya but God has answered by prayers by brining you here. If people can think of us like this and bring medicines to our village, we will be very happy.” Paskalina further said.
Help along the way
We walked for an hour and a half and reached Opiri village which is mid-way to Omiling, we settled down to take a rest, the residents roasted for us groundnuts and as we were eating the locals mobilized a team of volunteers from Omiling to come and carry the medical supplies to Omiling an hour walk from Opiri. Now lighter, we started off and reached Omiling, settled in a cool shade and the crowd started to gather. Though tired the team set up and started their work treated several patients.
As we left Omiling much later in the evening, it was more satisfying to see the twin babies Ochen, Apio and many other children and adults receive treatment within their village which could have been very difficult for mothers to take them to Lirya. At The Rescue Initiative South Sudan, we celebrate our courageous and determined humanitarian health professionals for reaching hard to reach communities across South Sudan to provide emergency health services to the needy. Our emergency response project in Lirya is made possible with funding from IOM’s Rapid Response Fund.
Emmanuel Kenyi is the Media and Communications Specialist for The Rescue Initiative South Sudan