I will attempt to provide a summary of Jok and my trip to South Sudan, April 27 to May 12, 2013. So much happened that it would be impossible to tell it all here. We will be planning programs at Scioto Ridge and Trinity United Methodist Churches and will announce those events once they are planned. Jok has decided to extend his stay in South Sudan and Nairobi until the end of June. He hopes to be present with his wife, Adol, when she has her interview for her visa at the U.S. Embassy.
Attached are a few photos of the important parts of our trip. I think you can tell from the smiles on our faces how excited we were as we saw the Buckeye Health Clinic sign and the new building for the first time. Everyone we spoke with said that it is the best health facility building in Twic East County. You should all be proud of your part of making this happen. Thanks so much.
I have always said that Jok is a good politician. With all of his contacts, we did a lot of successful networking. We met with six Ministry of Health officials in Juba, the County Health Director and County Commissioner in Twic East County, the Member of Parliament who represents the Piol area, and the Governor of Jonglei State. We also met with the legal advisor to the President, and the Deputy Minister of Defense for South Sudan, both of whom are from Piol. Everyone was very encouraged by the progress we have made adding medical services in the area. They thanked us for our efforts.
We met with the contractor who constructed the building. In general it looks even better than the pictures we have seen. We gave the contractor a list of items to be repaired, or completed as designed. We also made arrangements with him to pour cement floors and add electricity in the staff housing when it is completed. We ordered benches for the waiting areas and office desks for both buildings. It gave us great pleasure to order these from one of the teachers who taught Jok and Bol in both refugee camps. He is also a carpenter and now makes his living in Bor making furniture.
For various reasons, the hiring of a nurse/midwife and a laboratory technician for the clinic will need to be delayed. The village has not completed construction of the staff housing. It is important that the village takes its part in the development of the clinic and this is truly a joint effort. There are new government guidelines concerning staff salaries that we became aware of and will have to take into consideration in terms of the sustainability of the clinic when the Republic of South Sudan assumes responsibility for the facility and its staff. We also became aware of new income tax and social security tax requirements that we need to understand and determine how we can comply. In addition, changes in personnel and policy at CARE International, our NGO partner, are complicating the staff hiring process and our relationship with them. Although it was disappointing to not be able to hire these staff and begin expanding services, our trip to South Sudan for those two weeks prepares us to move forward.
We had a successful meeting under the trees with the chiefs and elders. They were very appreciative of the new building and are looking forward to adding medical professionals. They told us that insecurity in the area was the reason the staff housing has not been completed, but promised to finish the construction soon. They identified transportation and the construction of a fence as the next priorities for the clinic. Both in Juba and Bor, Jok and I explored options to meet these needs. We gave the chiefs OSU T-Shirts and took many pictures.
While we were in Piol village we were excited to receive a donation of 50,000 South Sudanese Pounds (about $14,000 U.S. dollars) from Dr. Majak d’Agoot, a respected member of the Piol area and the Deputy Minister of Defense of the Republic of South Sudan. He has friends and supporters who have made this donation possible. With these funds we were able to pay for the completion of the staff housing and purchase furniture for the clinic. The balance of the donation will be used to help address the additional needs expressed to us by the chiefs and elders.
Our order of Reproductive Health Kits, purchased from the United Nations World Food Program, has arrived Juba and will be delivered to Piol next week. Among other benefits, these kits offer a clean environment for deliveries and have been shown to reduce maternal and infant mortality by 25%. We found that of the 151 health facilities in Jonglei State, The Buckeye Clinic will be only the seventh to receive these kits. The staff are excited to receive these much-anticipated supplies.
We spent a lot of time talking with all the staff of the PHCU. All of them are from Piol, very dedicated to serving their community, and doing a great job. One of the Community Health Workers, Daniel Atem, is also the pastor of the local Episcopal Church and travels to Maar once a week where the Diocese office has internet access. We gave him a laptop computer that will enable him to communicate with us on a regular basis. We also left a camera with Kuol, which will enable us to receive photos of the activities at the clinic. This increase in communication capability will enable reliable people to give us updates.
Our trip was very successful in so many ways. We had meaningful discussions with Federal and County Ministry of Health officials and the chiefs and elders in Piol village. We identified needed equipment and improvements at the new maternal and child health unit. Our conversation with current clinic staff gives us confidence that lives are being saved because of our support. Thanks to everyone for your support and prayers during our trip. We definitely felt the support and encouragement, especially when we were in the village fighting off the mosquitoes. Please keep Jok in your prayers as he stays an additional month in South Sudan and for his safe return to the U.S.
Thanks again for all that you have done to make the Buckeye Health Clinic a reality.