16 Jul 2018

 

LOICE MARCELO, THE SPIRIT OF MSF

When a team of nurses visited a particular secondary day school on a sunny day in Juba in 1986, their goal was to pass their public health messages to the students.

LOICE MARCELO, THE SPIRIT OF MSF
Loice Marcelo Benjamin [Photo| MSF]

JUBA, 12 May 2018 [Gurtong]-Among the students who were attentively listening was Loice Marcelo Benjamin. She vividly remembers how the dignity of the nurses, coupled with their knowledge of public health, inspired her and triggered her desire to become a nurse.

Loice’s drive to become a nurse motivated her to study hard and excel in her education. She endured a two-hour trek each way to and from school every day to gain the knowledge she would need to become a nurse.

“Going to school was not fun. The liberation struggles had just started. However, my dad a civil servant always encouraged me to study hard; he said through education I had a bright future.”
In 1996 Marcelo graduated from the Juba School of Nursing and Midwifery with a certificate in nursing. “We were 20 students who graduated that year, but nine have since died, most during the war.”

As the war intensified Marcelo’s father moved the family to the capital, Khartoum, in the north. Seeing all the people displaced by the fighting between Sudan and Sudan People’s Liberation Army  strengthened Loice’s resolve to become a nurse and to care for all those she could. In Khartoum she enrolled at the Khartoum teaching hospital to gain a diploma in nursing. In 1998 Loice became a registered nurse.

When Marcelo finished her education, she believed it was time to start helping those around her. She was prepared to cross borders if it meant saving lives. “I joined MSF in 2004 as an outreach nurse. I was immediately posted to Darfur where the health situation had deteriorated and people were suffering.”

Following the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement between Sudan and Sudan People’s Liberation Army in 2005, Marcelo went home to South Sudan.

She continued to work with MSF, in Lankien, and 14 years later, now a mother of six, she has become one of the most senior nurses at the hospital.

“My day starts at 8:00 am. I go to the waiting area to identify patients who are in serious condition and take them to the doctor. I provide emotional and psychological support to the patients. I analyse patient’s symptoms and take required actions to help them through their recovery. The most important part of treating patients is adhering to the protocols, norms, rules and regulations in order to maintain complete medical records. All these gives me joy.”
 
Marcelo is the first point of contact for patients who report to the health facility having suffered sexual and gender-based violence, or having contracted sexually transmitted infections.

Marcelo’s day becomes extremely busy during the malaria season. There are many patients to diagnose and treat for malaria, some are severely ill.

“Malaria is the most common disease that we see. We also see cases of diarrhoea, respiratory tract infection, kala azar and sexually transmitted diseases.”

Marcelo has worked with MSF doctors and other medical personnel from around the world.
“I have gained a lot of skills from the team I have worked with. The knowledge I gain every day makes me proud of MSF. In 2011, I went to Malawi to be trained in paediatric case management and in 2016 I went to Kenya to learn about the management of sexual and gender-based violence cases.”

Marcelo says nurses in South Sudan do great work providing healthcare. Yet her heart breaks when a life cannot be saved due to lack of medical supplies, especially in rural parts of the country.

“In MSF-run health facilities medical supplies are provided. But in other parts of the country people still suffer due to a lack of medical supplies.”

Marcelo is one of MSF’s almost 10,000 nurses providing medical care in some of the most difficult parts of the world, many with only limited access to healthcare.

 In South Sudan MSF employs 243 nurses, working across the country. They are vital cogs in MSF’s system of healthcare; they have boost MSF’s mission of delivering medical aid to the people in greatest need in the country over the years.

As South Sudan joins the rest of the world to honour its nurses, the work they have done and continue to do remains essential to the country’s health sector.

The commitment and hard work of MSF’s South Sudanese nurses, alongside the work of its doctors and many other staff, has enabled MSF to conduct seven million medical consultations and nearly 30,000 surgical interventions, and to treat over one million malaria cases in the country since independence.

MSF IN LANKIEN

Like many parts of the country, the conflict has taken heavy toll on civilians in Lankien. MSF has run a large hospital in Lankien for 23 years, in support to the health authorities. The well-established health facility is run by experienced staff from different parts of the world, who work hand in hand with MSF’s dedicated and proficient South Sudanese team.
 

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