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MALAKAL - 1 Jan 2014

Ministry calls on staff to return to Malakal hospital

South Sudan’s health ministry has appealed to nursing staff and doctors of Malakal Teaching Hospital to return to work to help cope with the influx of wounded at the hospital.

During days of fighting in Malakal there were only two doctors present at the hospital – one pediatrician and the hospital’s director-general – as well as three medical officers.

“Most of the nursing staff either fled or could not get access to the hospital,” said the undersecretary of the national health ministry while on visit to Malakal on Tuesday.

“They responded very well in the hospital despite the fact that there were only very few doctors,” he added.

More than 150 war-wounded flooded the hospital at that time, 32 of whom died. The hospital ran out of medicines on 26 December, even the basic pain reliever panadol, Radio Tamazuj learnt from the state health minister. 

Relief supplies arrived in the following days from the Red Cross and the national health ministry, which brought on Tuesday three tons of medicines and food items.

According to the undersecretary, the national health ministry has also assigned a surgeon on its staff to increase surgical capacity in Malakal.

“I take this opportunity also to appeal to my colleagues who are working at Malakal Teaching Hospital who might be still in hiding or who are still uncertain of the security situation in town to assure them that they can return to work, ” said the undersecretary.

He was speaking on behalf of the minister Dr. Riek Gai, who has been sent to Addis Ababa for negotiations.

Security in Malakal

Government forces have regained control of Malakal, South Sudan’s second biggest city, but much of the civilian population is yet to return.

John Ivo Mounto, deputy governor of the state, told reporters on Tuesday that security is good but noted for some people there is no place to return to because of the widespread destruction in the city. He also disclosed that the government was still collecting unburied bodies in some areas.

Ivo, who was previously commissioner of Maban County, also called on the people who fled to return to their homes.

For his part, a state relief official said the entire market had been looted and there was no food in the city, but people would be registered soon for a general food distribution.

“There is no problem in the city, and the government is calling on the people who fled to UNMISS to return to their homes… but people are afraid and there’s nobody who came out from UNMISS yet,” said Peter Pal Chol, head of the state Relief and Rehabilitation Commission.

Airport declared open 

Governor Simon Kuon Puoch said there is no more danger to the city and rebels have been driven far away from Malakal: “Some of them have crossed to Jonglei State.”

“As the authority in this state I am now declaring the Upper Nile State airport at Malakal open for all type of aircrafts, because the area is safe, the landing is safe, even takeoff will be safe,” he said on Tuesday.

“Security in the airport is very fine, so please you’re welcome,” he said.

Government and commercial planes are reportedly still using the airport, though some humanitarian flights may have been suspended owing to security concerns.

File photo