Old Fangak, South Sudan | AFP | Thouk Reath, 19, was recovering from a leg amputation after being shot in fighting in northeastern South Sudan when the clinic he was in had to be evacuated because of approaching gunfire.
Patients and doctors at the clinic in the town of Maiwut risked being caught up in an army offensive closing in on the nearby opposition-stronghold Pagak.
The United Nations said last week that about 5,000 people had fled into neighbouring Ethiopia to escape the fighting, and rebel spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel told AFP another 25,000 had fled over the weekend.
“I was shot and my leg was amputated in Maiwut Hospital where I was recovering until we were told to evacuate,” said Thouk, lying under a blue sheet.
“It was a difficult journey. We were first driven to Pagak, then flown to Old Fangak and taken to the hospital across the river by boat.”
Old Fangak is a small, spread-out town of mud huts on both banks of the White Nile, about 300 kilometres (190 miles) from Maiwut. With no access to the swampy area by main roads, the fastest way to get patients to a field hospital in the town is by boat.
Thouk was in Maiwut, about 25 kilometres from Pagak after being displaced a first time more than a year ago when his village came under attack. He has not seen his parents since and believes they may be dead.
– Stopped mid-surgery –
The arrival of Thouk and about 20 other patients has seen the Old Fangak hospital extended from a single tent into several treatment rooms lined with white metal beds and warm blankets, all covered with rainproof tarpaulins.
Operating theatre nurse Robbie Gray, working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), recalls being told to “stop mid-surgery” to evacuate the Maiwut clinic.
“I was assisting an operation when we suddenly heard about gunshots outside Maiwut. We were told to immediately evacuate,” he told AFP.