our field workers
From January to September 2020, Samantha Hui Wing Sum, an operating theatre nurse, worked in an MSF mission in South Sudan and witnessed the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on MSF operations.
Frequent violent conflicts since the civil war in 2013 have resulted in an estimated 5 million internally displaced people. In Bentiu, the UN protection of civilians site accommodated approximately 100,000 people. The MSF hospital, where Samantha worked, is the only medical facility in that region. For nine months, the hospital did not receive any new medical supplies by air because of international transport limitations during COVID-19.
“We had to think twice before using each piece of gauze. Apart from providing care to patients, we had to reserve enough resources to step up preparedness for mass casualties that could happen any time.” Samantha said.
Samantha had to find ways to conserve medical supplies while providing care to patients. As no new supply could reach South Sudan, Samantha worked closely with other MSF projects in the country to reallocate and shuffle resources amongst projects to meet urgent medical needs.
Apart from the shortage of medical supplies, it was also difficult to send international fieldworkers to South Sudan. Samantha's team once had 23 members yet it [MAY BE ..”fell to 11 due to” OR “was reduced by 11 due to restrictions in travel and lockdowns. But with people and material running low, the medical team encountered the most serious mass casualty incident since the establishment of the project. There was a mass shooting in the neighbourhood, with 27 people injured and sent to the hospital.
“Although we were a small team, we had a clear division of labour. While waiting for the arrival of the injured patients, we worked together to convert the wards into makeshift emergency rooms with the necessary medicine and equipment, so that patients could be treated once admitted,” Samantha said. “With the lack of manpower and supplies, teamwork became crucial. It was tough. But I felt strongly motivated every time I saw a patient recover, which made every effort worthwhile.”