Violence Threatens Care for More Than 160,000 People in South Sudan's Pibor County

Escalating violence has forced MSF to suspend the delivery of medical services in two of its three facilities in Pibor County.

South Sudan 2012 © Robin Meldrum/MSF

40-year-old Erogen Labarach is treated for a gunshot wound at an MSF hospital in Pibor, where continuing violence has forced MSF to suspend delivery of medical services.

Escalating violence has forced international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to suspend the delivery of medical services in two of its three facilities in Jonglei State’s Pibor County, in South Sudan, leaving up to 90,000 people deprived of essential medical care.

Due to the insecurity, the populations of Lekwongole and Gumuruk, including all MSF staff and their families, have fled their homes to seek refuge in the bush. Without staff and without the means to reach the two towns from Pibor, MSF was forced to suspend its medical activities in Lekwongole on August 25 and in Gumuruk on September 20.

MSF has evacuated all international staff from Pibor county and despite significant difficulties, the organization’s local staff is continuing to provide medical care at the MSF facility in Pibor town itself.

“We are at the peak of the malaria season and in the midst of the heaviest flooding seen in this area in recent years,” says Stefano Zannini, MSF Head of Mission. “People have to walk for hours to access medical care in Pibor town as the MSF health center is now the only medical facility providing free and quality medical care in the county. We fear we will have to suspend all our services due to security concerns. This will have a devastating impact on the community, leaving more than 160,000 residents of Pibor County without access to health care.”

MSF calls on all armed groups in and around Pibor to respect medical facilities and staff, to ensure we can continue our life-saving work.

“Our priority is to be able to safely continue to provide urgently needed health care to the people of Pibor County,” says Zannini. “We remain fully committed to providing medical care to all people in Pibor County and we are ready to recommence full medical services as soon as the security situation allows.”

In 2011, MSF provided 35,075 consultations in Pibor, Lekwongole, and Gumuruk. The teams also provided 6,635 antenatal consultations and delivered 521 babies, treated 3,598 patients with malaria, treated 1,037 severely malnourished children, and provided care for 496 people with violence-related injuries. MSF has been providing medical assistance in Pibor since 2005. In addition to its activities in Pibor County, MSF also runs a clinic in Lankien, in northern Jonglei State, with outreach sites in Pieri and Yuai.