how to help
Thank you to all of you who have written to ask how we can help patients at the hospital in South Sudan. I'm not an expert, but after being on the ground, serving at the hospital, and having many conversations with South Sudanese community leaders, here's some context, and suggestions for how we can help.
The hospital where I've been volunteering in South Sudan is owned and run by the government, whose economy is currently in a free fall.
In 2016, the country experienced an 800 % inflation rate.
There were 15 doctors working at the hospital, getting paid 2,000 South Sudanese Pounds (SSPs) per month. Their wages were not adjusted for the rapidly-rising inflation. Currently, 2,000 SSPs is equal to $10. For context, a 25-kg bag of dried beans in the market costs 9,500 SSPs.
The doctors couldn't afford to feed themselves on their salaries -- let alone feeding and supporting their families -- so 13 of them left. Some opened private clinics in town, others left to work for NGO's, who pay a higher salary, and pay it in stable currencies like the euro or U.S. dollars.
The government used to send supplies to Bor hospital every 3 months, but now it's been 6 months since the hospital's received supplies, and more than 7 months since any staff has been paid. Other government employees -- soldiers, police officers, teachers -- also haven't been paid.
In the meantime, dozens of high-ranking South Sudanese government officials have been accused of corruption and embezzlement, though little has been done to investigate or press charges against them.
South Sudan was originally comprised of 10 states when it became a country in 2011. In 2015, the president split it into 28 states and, this year, it was split further into 32 states. Increasing the number of states increases overhead costs like governors' salaries and operating expenses. While the government becomes increasingly top-heavy, less and less financial resources are getting to the people who need it most.
When it comes to what people in the western world can do for fledgling countries like South Sudan (it's currently ranked as the Most Fragile Country in the World), I would suggest a few considerations.
For starters, there are stages to helping improve the conditions of our brothers and sisters who are suffering.
1) Keep people alive today.
The reality is, there are people unnecessarily dying in South Sudan every day. The first goal is simply to keep people alive. That's why I volunteered at the hospital, why I did fundraising through YouCaring, and why I used all the funds I had to buy malaria medicine for the hospital.
2) Take steps towards stability.
Once we figure out the best way to save as many lives as possible, we need to create a way forward. For every country, there should come a point in time in which they no longer need the U.N., non-government organizations or Americans (or other westerners) to meet the country's agricultural, medical, educational, engineering or security needs.
***If a non-profit doesn't have an exit strategy, it's not doing the people there any good. Creating long-term dependency is incredibly harmful. (For great examples of this, I recommend reading "When Helping Hurts").
3) Establish long-term, self-renewing resources.
Every country needs a stable government, educational system, health care delivery, renewable energy and food sources, and sustained peace in order to thrive. Once South Sudan is out of crisis mode, it needs to pursue economic growth, long-term peace and a government with integrity in order to find its way to long-term health.
Ok. So, all that to provide context for the question, "What can we do?" What can those of us whose hearts are breaking for South Sudan do to tangibly help this fledgling country where so many are suffering?
Just like there are three stages to a country becoming stable and sustainable, I think there are three ways in which we can intervene.
1) Keep people alive today.
Thanks to your donations, I was able to provide thousands of tablets and vials of malaria medicine to the hospital -- since these are the most-needed medicine patients there needed. Once the rainy season begins in early spring, the need will go up astronomically -- because rain exponentially multiplies the mosquito population, and hence the number of malaria cases.
I'm praying that I'll be able to return soon -- so if/when that happens, the more funds I raise, the more medicine I can take to the hospital. Plus, I'll be able to spend more time on the ground caring for patients there.
2) Meet short-term needs.
A Christian non-profit called IMA World Health is doing great work in South Sudan, providing funding for preventive measures like vaccines, as well as funding for clinics and hospitals.
International Rescue Committee is another exceptionally well-run organization that's doing incredible work.
By supporting these non-profits, you can enable them to have an even broader, on-the-ground impact to the people who are suffering. Because of the economy, the U.S. dollar goes far in South Sudan. $1.25 purchases enough tablets to treat one adult (or four children!) for malaria. So even if you think you don't have much to give, just a few dollars can save a lot of lives.
3) Create a healthy future.
Until South Sudan has a stable economy, a non-corrupt government and an end to the current civil war, there's very little progress that can be made to set the country up for long-term stability and success. So pray for advances to be made on these fronts so that there's a firm foundation that will support the South Sudanese people for a long time to come. And encourage U.S. politicians to support those efforts as well.
My hope is that our South Sudanese brothers and sisters will soon develop a solid foundation on which to build their new country.
My prayer is that each of us will do whatever we can to alleviate their suffering and to save the lives of those who are needlessly dying.
And my dream is that as progress is made, obstacles are overcome, and solid steps are taken to move South Sudan into a healthy future, we'll be celebrating with our brothers and sisters there, grateful for the opportunity to play a (small) part in their success.