Dr. Tek with a new mother and her newborn baby
Today, International Medical Corps is participating in GlobalGiving’s Pro-Rated Bonus Day. Give to our project any time between 9:00 AM EST and 11:59 PM EST, and GlobalGiving will add extra funds to make your donation go even further. Your donation and the extra funds will go towards reaching those in South Sudan and those affected by the recent eruption of fighting in the city of Malakal. Read our latest update below to learn more about the current situation.
It was amid the chaos of the carnage and destruction in Malakal, South Sudan that an Ethiopian OB/GYN named Tekeselassie—known simply as Dr. Tek—found himself doing something that can only be described as surreal, something that he is still trying to make sense of: bringing new life into the world at the very moment he was surrounded by death.
On February 17 and 18, fighting and violence erupted in the United Nations-controlled civilian protection site, where 47,000 internally displaced persons had come to seek shelter, health, and protection care. At least 18 displaced persons and three humanitarian aid workers were killed, and civilian shelters as well as humanitarian facilities, including health clinics and a rare and much-needed surgical operating theater staffed by International Medical Corps, were destroyed. An estimated 30,000 individuals lost their shelter, and many fled the civilian site.
As the fighting went on around him, with the operating theater reduced to shambles, Dr. Tek and his team from International Medical Corps delivered three new babies—all of them healthy—using the corner of an old shed as a makeshift delivery room and the floor as a table while relatives surrounded the mother, holding up a curtain to protect her privacy. He recalled that the first infant delivered was a girl who weighed 2.6 kilograms, just over 5 lb 11 oz, but much else remains fuzzy.
“We didn’t get the baby’s name,” he said. “It was chaos.”
The team delivered a fourth child several hours after the battle had ended in the relative comfort of a 20-foot-long shipping container hastily rigged as a delivery room. After giving birth, the new mothers were transferred with their infants to a recovery area, a 36 by 18 foot tent, where they shared their space with 15 others, all casualties of the battle.
Dr. Tek said the contradiction of bringing new life onto a de-facto battlefield didn’t hit him at the time but admits he has thought about it often in the days since.
“We were so engulfed in the moment, we were just physically overwhelmed,” he explained. “Now when I look back, it’s difficult…very hard to take in that people outside are dying and inside we’re helping people give birth. Hard to comprehend.”
He says he hopes to see the mothers with their newborns again in the days ahead when they are scheduled to return for a post-natal visit and vaccinations. In the meantime, Dr. Tek has other concerns, such as the fate of a new mother named Zeinab from the remote Nuba Mountains to the north who had recently taken shelter in the UN civilian protection zone along with her family. He had delivered Zeinab’s baby by Caesarian section just prior to the battle and she was recovering when the fighting broke out. By the time she was ready to return to her temporary home Zeinab’s entire family—her mother, husband and two children—had fled.
“She and her baby are both fine, but they have nowhere to go,” Dr. Tek said.
Then there’s the issue of rebuilding. The battle not only took many lives, but also destroyed life-saving medicines as well as healthcare clinics and medical equipment, including the lone operating theater and post-operative care rooms. These served the tens of thousands of South Sudanese who, like Zeinab, fled their homes for the relative safety of Malakal’s UN protection zone.
“It took months to complete the facility enabling us to carry out complicated deliveries,” he said. “I never dreamed this would happen.”
International Medical Corps is working to address the recent devastation and meet the emergency humanitarian needs in Malakal and throughout South Sudan. We thank you and GlobalGiving for your support as we continue to rebuild.
International Medical Corps' operating room before
International Medical Corps' operating room after