HPF makes surgery a reality in remote Panyijiar
Surrounded by swamps, Ganyiel in rebel-held Panyijiar county has mostly remained an island of calm in in the southern Unity region of South Sudan which was plagued by ongoing conflict throughout 2015.
The Panyijiar County Commissioner’s mother and wife (both seated) pose with family members and neighbours.
The community in Ganyiel is grateful to HPF for building the operating theatre in the history of the county
Here, the Health Pooled Fund (HPF), working through implementing partner International Rescue Committee (IRC), has built and staffed an operating theatre to complete a fully functioning CEmONC* centre capable of saving lives in obstetric emergencies.
“This is the first time in the history of the county that we have an operating theatre (OT) and it is all thanks to HPF and its donors,” said County Commissioner, John Tap.
“Before the doctor came, many people were dying of simple illnesses and many women were dying of pregnancy complications. I could see that my community was dying unnecessarily and as a leader, I thought, I must do something to help.”
To support the project, the Commissioner offered to mobilise the community to build the staff accommodation at the facility.
“I know that an NGO cannot work alone, as community we must participate and work together for the good of all. I personally participated by bringing sand for construction. We used [captured] government trucks to bring the sand for free,” he said.
“The community takes it seriously because they know that it saves lives. They are very grateful for their lives.
“Since we opened the OT in December 2015, all operations have been successful. If HPF had not helped to build it we would have lost so many lives. Now when someone dies it is because God has chosen to take them, not just because of lack of funding support.”
The Commissioner also has very personal reasons for his strong support of the CEmONC centre construction. Seven months earlier, his wife, pregnant with twins, went into labour at home.
She gave birth to the first twin, a girl named Betty Nyabon, on the kitchen table. But 48 hours later she still had not delivered the second twin.
The CEmONC centre was then still in the very early stages of construction and the PHCC was not equipped for surgery.
With no viable referral options the Commissioner was presented with a choice. Do nothing and your wife will almost certainly die. Or, the doctor can operate on her at the PHCC but without the correct instruments and drugs she may still die.
Opting to put their faith in the doctor funded by HPF, his wife underwent a caesarean section in the PHCC without anaesthesia, fainting throughout from the intense pain.
Happily, both mother and child survived and the couple were rewarded with a second healthy twin; a boy named Alec Iriatin whose name means “saved by God” in the local language. “I was very proud when my wife was the first woman to be operated on by c-section here,” the Commissioner said. “My wife is an example of how we managed before. Without HPF’s support we would have lost these two people. I want all our women to have the same chance to survive,” the Commissioner said.
His wife too is now using her influence in the community to convince other women to deliver at the facility.
“Many people know me and trust me and I am telling them all to go to the facility to deliver because we know now that it is safer if something goes wrong,” she said. “We want all the women of childbearing age to be like me and give birth at the facility.
“Before opening this facility many women would die in labour or die on their way to Leer. So many died because we didn’t have access to a doctor.
“When I was taken there I really thought that I would not survive that day. We are very happy because if not for HPF I would not be alive now.”
The operating theatre was officially opened on 17 December 2015 and in the first seven weeks completed 33 operations, all successful, including five caesarean sections and five major surgeries. People travel from all over Panyijiar county for its services.
“At the opening ceremony the whole community was dancing and celebrating because we are so happy to finally have this.”
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*CEmONC – comprehensive emergency obstetric and newborn care
The Commissioner’s mother (left) and wife (right) holding seven-month old twins Betty and Alex. Alex was delivered by emergency caesarean at Ganyiel PHCC.