South Sudan amputees see glimmer of hope after rehabilitation

Hundreds of amputees in South Sudan are successfully recovering from psychosocial issues, due to the physiotherapy treatment and artificial limbs being provided to them with support from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Abraham Deng, (Right) being supported by medic at Juba Rehabilitation Reference Center on Tuesday.

By Benjamin Takpiny

Hundreds of amputees in South Sudan are successfully recovering from psychosocial issues, due to the physiotherapy treatment and artificial limbs being provided to them with support from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Majority of persons with disabilities being treated and taken care of at the Juba Rehabilitation Reference Center (PRRC) are either victims of gunshots or landmines and unexploded ordinances left behind following years of conflicts.

Daniel Kuol, a 31 -year-old amputee from Kolynyang Payam of Jonglei state told The Dawn on Tuesday in Juba, that he arrived in November 2023 at the Juba rehabilitation reference center while nursing a gunshot wound in his left leg.

In March 2022, Kuol was shot by armed Murle youth from neighboring Greater Pibor Administrative Area who had raided his village for cattle. He is currently full hope as he waits for staff at Juba rehabilitation reference center to fix artificial limb on his leg.

“I came two weeks here and I am waiting my artificial limb, when I am done they will give me money for transport and I will go where I come from,” said Kuol in an interview.

South Sudan has three physical rehabilitation centers for persons with disabilities in Juba, Wau and Rumbek which are supported by the ICRC.

Kuol is among the few inpatients from some of the 10 states and three administrative areas being accommodated at Juba rehabilitation reference center.

The inpatients are provided with basic necessities such as washing soap, tea and other necessities.

“I tell people in this situation not to worry and pity themselves, we have people who give use us advise here, they say disability is not inability because you can do much than people who have both legs,” said Kuol

He said that their caretakers train and encourage them to open up small businesses to improve their income.

Wenbul Dhil Kulang on Tuesday at the Juba Rehabilitation Reference Center.

Wenbul Dhil Kulang, a disabled South Sudan People’s Defense Force (SSPDF) soldier said he was amputated after he sustained a gunshot wound during fighting in 2004 with the Sudan Armed Forces in Kapoeta area of Eastern Equatoria state.

Kulang is among the amputees who are waiting to receive artificial limbs so that he can return to his home in Bentiu town of Unity state.

 “I was amputated in 2004 by white people, I am happy that now the work is being done by our fellow South Sudanese,” he said.

Another former war hero, Abraham Deng at the rank of sergent major in the SSPDF, said he is relieved to have received artificial limb at Juba rehabilitation reference center as he waits to return to his native Jonglei.

Deng lost one of his legs while fighting in Kapoeta among the former rebel force Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) with the Sudan Armed Forces in 1994.

“I am happy because I got my (artificial) leg I can now walk with two legs, I have the ability to walk even up to Mangala,” he said.

“I want to work as a security guard because I am trained soldier,” he added.

Emmanuel Lubari, director for disability in the national ministry of gender, child and social welfare which collaborates with ICRC to maintain the three physical rehabilitation centers in the country, said that there are more than 60,000 people in need of physical rehabilitation services in the country.

He blamed conflicts and motor accidents for the increase on the number of people in need of Physiotherapy treatment, artificial limbs (prosthesis), orthotics (supportive braces), wheel chairs/walking aids and psychosocial support.

Lubari said the three rehabilitation centers handle 3000 cases each annually.

He disclosed that currently South Sudan lacks orthopaedic technologists to provide services to persons with disabilities.

“We don’t have a school in the country but with support of ICRC, we have three students studying in Cambodia, and they will be coming back to provide service to people with disability in this country,” said Lubari.

In total, the three rehabilitation centers have provided physiotherapy services to about 14,057 people from January to October 2023.

David Dak Chak, psychologist working with ICRC at Juba rehabilitation reference center, said they started to provide mental health and psychosocial support to people in the three rehabilitation centers in 2022.

“We are providing individual counseling, family and group counseling and this counseling we assure them of confidentiality , we respect their dignity and their wishes and also we ensure non-discrimination to all the service users and also we have awareness on mental health,” said Dak.

He said they also sit together with the patients to come up with topics that keep the patients engaged in discussion on important things they hope to pursue in life.

“The coping mechanisms are not the same so when they share their experiences they also encourage themselves,” said Dak.

“We also have television motivation sessions, whereby we provide them with videos of disabled people around the world so that they know also that disability is not only in South Sudan, and it does not mean you are nothing,” he added.

Dak said these videos encourage the patients when they watch their fellow disabled people from different countries succeeding in many aspects of life.

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