Our team recently completed a new round of cleft lip surgeries in this nation plagued by violence
A 21-member Samaritan’s Purse medical team worked tirelessly from May 3–9 to repair the cleft lips of 77 South Sudanese patients. They battled extreme heat, illness, power outages, and more to perform these free-of charge surgeries in a new operating room at the Juba Teaching Hospital.
In South Sudan, people born with a cleft lip are often considered cursed and given names that mean “deformed.” They are often shunned by their community and sometimes even by their own family. Not only do they struggle with health issues, most wrestle with shame and embarrassment on a daily basis. A repaired lip can open doors in life that otherwise would be closed.
Throughout the week, a team of local chaplains ministered to patients while in Juba. They shared the Gospel and prayed words of hope and healing.James, a 16-year-old boy, was a special case among this year’s patients. He has been living in a protected camp in Juba since December 2013 when violence broke out in the capital city between factions loyal to President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar. The camp is guarded by the United Nations Mission to ensure the people’s safety and security.
A non-governmental organization brought James to our surgery program as a walk-in case on Tuesday morning around 11 a.m. with the caveat that he needed to get back to the camp that evening by 5:30 p.m. Amazingly, he’d only had tea for breakfast, which made him eligible for the operation that day.
Our surgical team reworked their heavy schedule to prioritize his case. By 2:30 in the afternoon, he was awake and ready to go home.He returned the next day for review. “I thank you with my whole heart,” he told Karen Daniels, our program manager, in broken English. He truly seemed to understand all the team did to help him.
“His story is one of 77 this week,” Karen later wrote, “and I know that our team would do the same for each of them.”
Most patients were transported to the capital from remote locations across South Sudan by our Mission Aviation Services-East Africa team. Flights are needed because the country has very few passable roads and the ones that do exist are many times too dangerous to travel due to the ongoing conflict.
Some of the patients came from the Yida refugee community in Unity state, where we distribute monthly food rations to about 73,000 people and maintain 14 of 15 local wells, providing over 1 million liters of clean water per day. We have a robust ministry program there as well, among other work.
This is the fifth consecutive year Samaritan’s Purse has offered a week of these surgeries in South Sudan, which achieved independence in 2011.