As George Clooney campaigns against the atrocities being committed in Sudan, Unreported World – a critically acclaimed Channel 4 foreign affairs series – has filmed extensive documentary footage from the war zone.
“At the heart of the war in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains is a hospital, the Mother of Mercy at Gidel. It’s the place where you can observe the extremes of human good and human evil” reports Aidan Hartley, in his ground breaking documentary footage which I recommend everyone to watch, and unless something is done quickly the horn of Africa faces another terrible man-made famine. Politically generated famine has put the lives of these people living in the Nuba Mountains under extra-ordinary living conditions, and though the International Community has indicted President Al Bashir and his accomplices as War Criminals, this has come short compared to the atrocities these people are going through.
I really felt ashamed to witness someone who is in a position to serve his nation will have this inhumane policy to wipe them out: As he unleashed terror last year, Bashir declared: “There will be no time to speak of diversity of culture and ethnicity… Islam [will be] the official religion and Arabic the official language… we will force them back into the mountains and starve them.”
But inside this inhumanity lies an unbelievable work being done by foreign and local medical teams, putting their lives at risk. As the reporter spoke about it, “I will never forget the hospital at Gidel. This is the only place where the Nuba can get proper medical treatment. Out in the rural clinics we witnessed doctors performing operations without anaesthetics, disinfectants or anti-biotics – they must use salt and water and traditional herbs to heal and clean war wounds.”
What would it look like to work in a region hit by humanitarian crisis? Though infinitely rewarding, the things volunteer medical teams have to keep up with is beyond comprehension.
But medical supplies at Gidel run short too. Earlier this year they had 100 kids admitted in the children’s ward with malaria and they literally ran out of drugs. All the medicines and supplies for Gidel must come from Nairobi in Kenya, which is thousands of miles to the south. Deploying the same horrible tactics they did in Darfur, President Bashir’s forces have besieged rebel areas in the Nuba Mountains where civilians are trapped – and that means they have stopped all supplies getting through. Instead, Gidel’s medicines have to be flown from Kenya, which is thousands of kilometres to the south, and then one of the priests must brave the one rebel-held track to the South Sudan frontier to collect supplies from an airstrip – running the gauntlet of air raids and ambushes.
It’s incredible what Dr. Catena and his staff have been able to do to save lives. But the hospital refrigerator has broken; there’s almost no fuel to run the generators; there’s no x-ray or other basic equipment. And now patients refuse to leave the hospital when they are discharged because they say government militias on horseback come and burn down their villages and rape and kill – or aircraft have bombarded their homes – or the paths to their fields and wells are sown with cluster bomb explosives or land mines.
A shanty of tents and makeshift shelters is growing around the edges of the hospital compound – and Sister Angelina must find food for them all. Food prices in the market have risen by six times since the siege began and sometimes the supplies are not available for any price. The government’s stated aim is to starve the Nuba into submission. Somehow, Sister Angelina has managed to keep the food coming, but she does not know how long they can keep this up and how many more mouths there will be to feed as the famine and the war worsen.