Four years after Salesian missionaries first envisioned a new hospital for the people of Tonj, South Sudan, it has officially opened. Completed thanks to a collaboration with the Italian youth volunteer organization TonjProject Onlus -- founded by a Salesian priest in Lombardy -- and the generosity of many loyal supporters, the hospital will increase access to desperately needed medical services.
“Today in South Sudan, there is a significant shortage of medically trained personnel,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “In fact, there is just one doctor for every 500,000 people. And the impact of this shortage is profound: one in one hundred mothers dies in childbirth; treatable illnesses like cholera and malaria go unchecked and often turn deadly; and preventive care is nearly nonexistent.
“For the people of Tonj -- a rural village in the heart of the country -- access to health care has been especially challenging,” he continues. “Their distance from larger urban areas has left them virtually isolated from those medical services that do exist.”
Before the new hospital opened on July 26, residents were forced to travel for as many as ten hours to reach a hospital -- a journey often exacerbated by heavy rains and unsafe, if not completely impassible, roads. Now, a 50-bed maternity and surgical unit is conveniently located in the community, as well as a full medical and administrative staff. Further expansions -- including a primary health clinic and center to treat patients with Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) are expected to be completed in 2015.
“Our pockets are empty, but our hearts are full of joy,” says Father Omar Delasa, director of TonjProject Onlus. “Better health for the people of Tonj is well within reach.”
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