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Red Cross doctors in South Sudan: saving lives amid tribal war

In 2011, South Sudan gained its long-desired independence from Sudan. Two years later, an intertribal war tore the new country apart.

 The rift began with a spat between the country’s president, Salva Kiir, and his former vice president, Riek Machar, who are from different Sudanese tribes. The conflict quickly escalated into a full-blown civil war, with the two rivals leading opposing armies and enlisting the help of other tribes.

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The hostilities have led to countless civilian deaths. Thousands of people have been forced to flee, with many separated from their relatives. Without homes or access to common medicines, refugees become vulnerable to life-threatening diseases brought on by poor sanitation. 

The civil war has also disrupted the country’s development. When tribes are fighting over land, they are unable to work it. Consequently, the normally fertile region has plunged into famine.

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Amid these extreme conditions, a Red Cross hospital in the town of Kodok has become the last hope for thousands of people affected by war in the country’s Upper Nile Region. The international staff does its best to save everyone who arrives wounded, ill, or starving, regardless of their tribe or whether they are civilians or fighters. 

These doctors have treated patients in conflict zones all over the world and witnessed the devastating human cost of civil war many times. In South Sudan, they continue to risk their lives to save others without taking sides.