A South Sudanese physician works ‘round the clock to treat the sick and injured in Jesus’ Name at a hospital supported by Samaritan's Purse
A group of battered refugees from the war-ravaged Blue Nile region of Sudan settled under the trees outside Bunj Hospital, less than 20 miles below the border in South Sudan, hoping to receive medical care.
Siad, a man in his 40s, sat stoically as Dr. Evan Atar pulled back the bloodstained bandages on his chest and back to examine the wounds that a bullet had made as it passed completely through his body, collapsing his right lung.
“People come in all the time, from all directions,” Dr. Atar said. “We work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I am the only doctor.”
Dr. Atar is one of only a handful of South Sudanese physicians. He studied in Khartoum and completed his medical training and residency in Egypt, before returning to care for his countrymen in an area that is marred by conflict.
Out of necessity, Dr. Atar has become a battlefield surgeon, treating men, women, and children who have been shot with assault rifles or hit by shrapnel from bombs and artillery fire when the Sudanese Armed Forces drove thousands of people from their villages in disputed border regions.
As a Christian, Dr. Atar is puzzled when people ask him why he stays in South Sudan, risking his life to care for people in a conflict zone at an overcrowded and understaffed hospital.
“We are the only ones here to help them, and we are the only witness for Christ among these people,” he said. “Jesus gave His love to us, without asking for anything in return. Here, we do just a little to help, but God is with us. We can’t do anything by ourselves.”
Bunj Hospital is adjacent to the Doro refugee camp, where Samaritan’s Purse is providing food, shelter, clean water and healthcare to more than 45,000 people.
Dr. Atar is the only full-time physician in Maban County, which has a population of more than 200,000 people, including over 110,000 refugees.
Samaritan’s Purse expanded Bunj Hospital, adding a new ward and operating theater. The hospital has about 60 beds, but often accommodates more than 100 patients, using cots and mattresses laid out on the floors.
During his rounds, Dr. Atar moves from bed to bed, comforting patients and tackling a variety of cases. One afternoon he treated multiple cases of malaria, tended gunshot wounds, examined a baby with encephalitis, and encountered childhood blindness that had been brought on by soil-borne bacteria. He took time to play with a little girl whose burned fingers had been amputated on her right hand. He dreaded telling a woman with advanced cancer that there was nothing more he could do.
Occasionally, physicians like Drs. Warren and Lindsay Cooper come to Bunj Hospital on a short-term assignment. When the Coopers arrived at the hospital Warren, a Samaritan’s Purse staff member, asked Dr. Atar a welcomed question: “How can we help?”
“It’s wonderful when someone like Dr. Cooper and his wife can come help us, even for a few weeks,” Dr. Atar said. “We are trying to get a second doctor for the hospital, but it takes time. God is working.”
Although Dr. Atar is on-call 24 hours a day, and often exhausted, his first concern is always for his patients.
“Pray for me, that God will give me wisdom,” he said. “And pray that He will give me strength to continue helping people who don’t have any hope of getting help anywhere else.”