Watching South Sudan become the newest country in the world was the most exciting event in the history of many people in the region who suffered during the 50 years of struggle for liberation. Lives were lost. Roads, communication network, and property were destroyed.
Today, the new country is now a business hub, attracting traders and customers from the surrounding countries. Organizations including The United Methodist Church (UMC) are also participating in transforming the new nation.
South Sudan is fully supported by Holston Conference (USA) under the East Africa Episcopal Area. It has one district with 18 churches. The membership is 1680.
Yet in Yei district, the joy seems to dwindle because of the severe malaria outbreak in the area.
The heavy rains, bushes, stagnant waters and decomposing wastes provide breeding areas for mosquitoes. Health messages on billboards are almost illegible as they hang on rags.
“We fought the rebels in the bush and thought it was over. Now there is yet another rebel just inside our houses – around our beds. Mosquitoes have become a menace to our lives,” said Franco Taban Ali, a resident of Ligitoro, one of the villages in the area.
A few houses away, 7-year-old girl Lilly Paya lies helpless with malaria. With no strength in her even to say a word, her eyes gazed dimly as sores cover most of her lips. She has been in bed for three days due to the infection.
Her mother, Besta Awate Faustino, sits beside the bed and tries to call her name but only looks at her without blinking.
“I am perturbed. My husband is in Juba and I have no money to buy medicine. I tried to take her to the nearby public hospital but the doctors said there were no malaria drugs,” Faustino said, adding, “she has lost appetite for food and I am only trying her on water.” UMC South Sudan District Superintendent Fred Dearing, who visited the family, expressed regret about the situation. The family are members of Ligitoro United Methodist Church.
“As church, we are looking at putting in place preventive measures such as health trainings and networking within the churches to reach out to communities and reduce the rates,” Dearing said.
There were no immediate plans to establish health centers but rather the goal was to strengthen the national delivery systems “where we shall do training of trainers on school screening, and distribution of health kits,” Dearing said.
He said that the church in Yei is in need of volunteers in mission with special skills such as in education, pastoral care, health care, agriculture and finance to work with doctors and Health Board members.
South Sudan has few public hospitals and the nearest in Lilly’s village of Ligitoro is 5 miles on a poor road. The United Methodist Church has a medical couple sponsored by Mission Church Society, Dr. Lynn and Sharon Fogelman, who are on the committee of the Health Board.
Other programs include training of traditional birth attendants, education on sanitation, nutrition, personal hygiene, construction of latrines and hand wash stations.
“We also encourage mobile clinics to reach out to distant communities. Like now we have a visiting team from Holston Conference which will be identifying areas of need and go back to their churches in America to share the story and mobilize for funds,” Dearing said.
The team from Holston Conference is led by John Micah LaRoche. They areas of need cuts across groups of women, children, youth, elderly, disabled, orphans and vulnerable children, pastors and church in general.