IMA World Health/Staff

As the sun was setting behind a newly built surgical ward, members of the Dinka, Nuer, and Murle communities sat on the grass at the Duk Lost Boys Clinic. They were brought together through a peace initiative organized by the John Dau Foundation. Many traveled a great distance on foot to come to the clinic located in Duk County. The University of Utah Moran Eye Centre and the John Dau Foundation worked together to bring 80 patients in need of eye surgery by plane and to the clinic to ensure they had access to the best care possible. Doctors from the United States visited the clinic and worked tirelessly to restore sight to those affected by cataracts and trachoma. They performed over 280 operations and restored sight to many who had not seen for years.  As one of the surgeons said, “the most satisfying part was watching the bandages come off.” One day after surgery people were able to see their sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters clearly. The doctors and clinic staff watched as people pointed out things around the compound they could now see, and were amazed at how their friends hair had grayed and children had grown.

The surgeries were part of a larger initiative to bring together representatives from the Murle, Nuer, and Dinka communities. While the Duk Lost Boys Clinic is located in a prominently Dinka part of Jonglei state, it sometimes sees patients that come from neighboring Nuer and Murle communities. The idea behind the initiative was to attempt to calm recent tensions between the three groups that had arisen over cattle raiding. By bringing the groups together John Dau said he hoped to, “show that with development everyone can benefit.” It was also important for him to show that the Duk Lost Boys Clinic was not a “Dinka” clinic, but one for everyone. By having these people together all experiencing the miracle of sight, the John Dau Foundation hoped they would be able to see a new vision for Jonglei state.

As the sun continued to set on the circle of visitors and local community members, each group got a chance to speak. They spoke of the difficulties each community faces and what they are doing to address them. At the end of the proceedings the doctors joined the meeting, and all three groups thanked them. They were then invited to come and shake the doctor’s hands, and the circle disintegrated into a mix of people from many different places shaking hands and sharing hugs.

The next day as the groups began to return home by plane, there was a sense of optimism that some minds had been changed. In fact, members of the Murle community chose to walk home so they could tell people about the meeting and try to achieve peace in the area. While the initiative may be a small step forward, it will be life altering for the individuals that will no longer walk in the dark.

IMA World Health is collaborating with the John Dau Foundation to bring support to the Duk Lost Boys Clinic and others like it through the Rapid Results Health Project. (RRHP) The project is funded by the World Bank through the Ministry of Health. The partnership supports health care facility personnel, supplies critical pharmaceuticals and supports essential reproductive health services in the Upper Nile and Jonglei states in South Sudan.