Refugees return to Sudan as doctors

Jeff Adams, For the Calgary Herald

Published: Sunday, May 18, 2008

In this yearly season of graduation ceremonies, when thousands occur at universities worldwide, very few if any will be more profoundly meaningful than the one held Saturday in this city along the muddy Nile River.

For the 11 new doctors here, all Sudanese who have strong connections to Calgary, Saturday marked the hard-fought conclusion to their 23-year, seemingly impossible journey that has featured more challenges than most of us can even imagine, let alone overcome.

“I never lost hope that I would come back,” Daniel Madit Duop said. “I knew I was on a mission, and it was a God-given opportunity when Samaritan’s Purse offered to help me.”

“We grew up with that mission in our lives — it has been part of our journey,” Duop said.

In a severely underdeveloped nation where there are barely 30 practising physicians for almost 10 million people, 11 more doctors is cause for great celebration.

“These people are laying the foundation for a strong medical system in South Sudan,” said the U.S. government’s consulate representative here, one of the speakers at the graduation. “They’re going to be an inspiration each day they go to work.”

As children, they walked for days, weeks and sometimes months to escape civil war in their Sudanese homeland. By the time they arrived at refugee camps in Ethiopia, many of their family and friends had been gunned down by government soldiers, devoured by crocodiles, or succumbed to starvation, dehydration or exhaustion.

From Ethiopia, they were sent by boat to Cuba — part of a group of Sudan’s 600 best and brightest youngsters given the daunting task by the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army of equipping themselves to rebuild South Sudan when the war eventually ended.

They obtained their high schooling, then their medical degrees, in Cuba while the war in Sudan continued. They entered Canada as refugees, discovered their Cuban medical credentials were not recognized, and laboured for years in factory jobs — including meat packing plants in High River and Brooks.

As the civil war in Sudan wound down, one of the 11 approached Samaritan’s Purse Canada three years ago and asked the Christian relief and development agency to help them return to southern Sudan to rebuild its infrastructure.

Duop put Samaritan’s Purse in touch with several of his former medical school classmates who also wanted to go home.

Samaritan’s Purse then approached the University of Calgary’s medical school, offering to help finance the creation of a special refresher/upgrading program.

The doctors finished the nine-month program in the fall of 2006, then began residencies that Samaritan’s Purse had arranged at hospitals in Kenya.

The 11 completed their residencies recently and are back in Sudan, assigned to various hospitals and clinics throughout the south.

“You have come at the right time to join us in the challenge of rebuilding together,” Dr. Stanley Ambajoro, of the South Sudan Ministry of Health, told the physicians during their graduation ceremony Saturday in Juba, the national capital, before giving each of them a special framed certificate.

Jeff Adams is Director of Samaritan’s Purse Canada’s Communications and Creative Services Department


One Response to “Refugees return to Sudan as doctors”

  1. Mint Says:

    Thank you for good information~~*


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