In 2011 MMM decided to respond to great human need in South Sudan. The world’s newest country was recovering from Africa's longest-running civil war. On 2 March 2013, three Sisters, Chinyere Iwunze from Nigeria; Irene Balzan from Malta; and Odette Nahayo from Rwanda, left for Wau in response to the request from Bishop of Wau, Rudolf Deng Majak, for medical personnel.
By population, Wau is the third-largest city in South Sudan. It has a huge number of settlements for displaced people who fled during the war and returned after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. MMM was to provide community-based health care for almost 25,000 of these people.
They completed a needs assessment to determine the health needs and priorities with the help of Andrew Otsieno, an MMM Associate. The assessment showed that inadequate clean water and poor nutrition were important issues. Malaria was also a major problem because the settlement is close to the river. The people were living in grass-roofed huts.
The Sisters developed an action plan, meeting with government officials and working closely with the local people. In the first five years of the MMM Community-based Health Care Programme, staff began water and sanitation activities, including borehole drilling, repair of pumps and training of hand pump mechanics to ensure sustainability. They began sack and kitchen gardens. Sack gardens are tall sacks filled with soil from which plants grow. They are good for areas where there is little or no healthy soil and are also fairly efficient in use of water. They help to improve a family’s diet by adding fresh vegetables. Immunisations were started in villages around Eastern Bank with the expanded programme on immunization (EPI).
In 2016 construction began on a healing centre, which was officially opened on 31 May 2018. Licensed as a primary health care centre by Wau State Ministry of Health, there are units for outpatients, social activities and community development. At the opening ceremony Mr. Moses Ukel received a certificate as a trained vaccinator. Because it has been a challenge to find someone committed to this work it was an important achievement.
Nutrition is a serious issue in Wau. More recently, the social department started a pilot project to buy seeds. Odette explained, ‘We wanted to know if it would be possible for people living in a dry land, mostly cattle keepers, to grow food to sustain themselves and their families. Participants received tomato, koudra, sukuma, onion, egg plant, cucumber and okra seeds. Soon green leaves appeared and our MMM Congregational Leadership Team supported extending the activity.’
The plan was to target 100 people. Mothers from vulnerable households would have talks on diet, hygiene, disease prevention and self reliance, and learn to make nutritious local recipes. Malnourished children and those with chronic illnesses would receive treatment and food supplements. Those with access to land would receive seeds and tools and learn to grow their own food. There were plans for a seed bank and a demonstration garden, where clients would learn about agronomy and appropriate technologies.
Work continues at the MMM Healing Centre and the Sisters do mobile clinics in five villages. They provide immunizations and voluntary counselling and testing for HIV. They also do health education in schools.
As of January 2020 there is a large nutrition demonstration garden. The produce is sold to support physically and mentally challenged and other vulnerable people who cannot afford clinic services. A nutrition programme supplies therapeutic food, maize and millet flour to children and adults with moderate to severe malnutrition. Fifteen internally displaced families received food and opened a market at the camp. An income generation activity is used to train young people in hairdressing.
MMMs in South Sudan are involved in:
- Health education
- Income generating projects
- Agriculture and nutrition
- Basic health services and outreach
Our Financial Report for 2018: