Assessment trip to Tonga reveals urgent need for health care and other services


It took Aliza an eleven-hour-long dangerous walk to reach the nearest health care centre.

Arriving in Tonga in northern South Sudan, she and her sick daughter are met by a looted facility.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan is looking into ways of addressing the needs of this opposition-controlled area.

Aliza Nyaluit Lowai, a 27-year-old single mother of four, is tired and desperate.

“My baby is ill. I hope we will be able to get some medication because we came from far away,” she says.

Hope is all she can have, because the Tonga Primary Health Care Centre in the Upper Nile region is not like other medical facilities. Armed men have left the place virtually empty. There is no equipment and hardly any medicines. Even hospital beds were taken away by looters.

“We try to cross the border to Sudan to get some medical supplies for malaria and some essential drugs we use to treat our patients,” says Pasquale Yohannes Yor, one of the medical doctors.

The health care facility is running at a low capacity. It receives between five and thirteen patients daily, with the most common problems being malaria, respiratory infections, typhoid, diarrhea and other waterborne diseases. For residents of Tonga it remains the only hope of getting help.

The doctors, resilient as they are, are struggling to treat patients. They are appealing to humanitarian agencies and international partners for assistance.

“We need medical supplies, also for routine immunizations. Babies are supposed to have standard vaccinations but we do not have them,” Dr. Yor says.

The UN Mission in South Sudan recently visited Tonga on a three-day mission to assess the security situation and the humanitarian needs in the area.

“From that what we have seen is that, yes, there is a need. People do need services. Now what we are doing is to look at how best we can address that need,” says David Shearer, chief of the UN peacekeeping mission.

Entire communities in the Tonga area were uprooted when fighting broke out between the Government’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army, SPLA, and armed Opposition forces. Homes were burnt, schools shut and medical facilities looted during the clashes, costing many civilian lives.

There is hope that the violence in the country will come to an end with the conclusion of the ongoing peace talks at the High Level Revitalization Forum in Addis Ababa.

Aliza Nyaluit Lowai desperately shares that hope.

“When is peace coming back to South Sudan? We have been running for all these years. We need peace to come.”

Author: Liatile Putsoa