Press Release

MSF emergency team responds to worrying health needs in Riang, South Sudan, with high rates of malaria


Juba, 19 January 2021 – Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is concerned about
the situation in Riang, in Jonglei state, eastern South Sudan, where the health of communities is
increasingly at risk. In January, an MSF emergency team flew into Riang and found remote communities
struggling to access clean water, safe water storage, latrines and basic healthcare. Years of protracted
flooding and violence have taken a heavy toll on the region, making communities more vulnerable,
particularly children under the age of five.
From 9 to 14 January, the MSF team provided medical consultations to roughly 770 people in Riang.
They also distributed kits containing mosquito nets, blankets, buckets, soap, water purifiers and filters,
and plastic sheets and ropes for shelters to over 1,000 families. In addition to providing dignity to flood-
affected families, these kits help reduce their exposure to deadly illnesses, such as malaria, respiratory
infections and waterborne diseases.
“A worrying 60 per cent of the children under the age of five treated in our mobile clinic last week
tested positive for malaria; some of them were already in a severe condition. We also saw people
suffering from untreated illnesses, including a large number of women with suspected urinary tract
infections, which reflects the lack of drinking water,” said MSF emergency coordinator Roberto Wright.
“International donors have only ensured funding for other health organisations working in Jonglei until
next month, so the situation in the region may quickly deteriorate even further.”
The fall in funding in Jonglei reflects a general trend across South Sudan, which has left many people
without access to essential healthcare. MSF is calling on international donors to ensure funding
continues for other health organisations working in Jonglei state, so that they can provide healthcare
and urgent humanitarian assistance, including food, water and latrines, to people living in hard-to-reach
areas like Riang. Surrounded by swamplands, these rural communities face months of floods during wet
seasons and widespread violence, aggravated by the scarcity of resources, such as food and livestock,
during dry seasons.
People living in these villages have to walk more than an hour to reach the nearest free-of-charge
healthcare, crossing swamps while carrying patients in baskets or on plastic sheets. During the rainy
season, the water levels are so high that only those able to swim can cross the swamps to see a doctor.
Meanwhile, those in need of specialised treatment must be carried to the MSF facility in Lankien, a
journey of several days and nights walking.
Holding a long stick to support her steps, 47-year-old Nyadeng Wal walked alongside with her teenager
granddaughter to reach the emergency team’s mobile clinic. The girl carried her unconscious two-year-
old brother in a basket on her head. “We crossed the swamp during the night to take him to a clinic in
Pathai. They gave him medication, but he did not improve,” said Nyadeng. MSF’s medical team
diagnosed him with severe malaria. Following a recommendation, the family walked to the MSF facility
in Pieri where he was admitted for treatment.
Elizabeth Nyechot Koeng also took her seven-year-old daughter, Nyepay Riek Puor, to the MSF mobile
clinic in Riang. The girl has had a large open wound on the side of her head since last September. “Our
house in [the village of] Pieth was flooded with around half a metre of water. It rained so heavily that

night that the wall collapsed and struck her head,” said Elizabeth. “The whole family had to flee. My
husband left with our children and his mother to seek a safer place. Nyepay was bleeding, so I crossed
the swamp with a family member to take her to Pulchol. We spent three days in a clinic and then came
back to Riang to search for our family.” They went several more times to a private clinic in Pathai, where
follow-up was available, but the family did not have enough money to finish her treatment.
“The gut-wrenching experience of Nyepay and her family represents the situation across many parts of
South Sudan. There is one emergency after another. The protracted flooding, ongoing violence in the
region and lack of free healthcare facilities have severely reduced access to healthcare, and mean many
wounds are not properly treated. Those that do manage to get some treatment often have little follow-
up or time to heal,” said Wright.

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