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In Sudan, the Daily Battle to Provide Aid

Julius Lanya, a Kenyan nurse in Nyala, Sudan, treats Haja Hamid, 12, for vitamin deficiency. Aid workers in the region report harassment by officials, rebels and bandits.
Julius Lanya, a Kenyan nurse in Nyala, Sudan, treats Haja Hamid, 12, for vitamin deficiency. Aid workers in the region report harassment by officials, rebels and bandits. (By Emily Wax -- The Washington Post)

Every morning after that, Lanya said, he rose with the sun and went from camp to camp, starting IV drips for dehydrated people who had walked miles through the desert. As a medical coordinator, he also managed other nurses, helped arrange the shipping of medicines from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, gathered lists of patients and trained midwives to help with births in the camps.

At night, exhausted, he fell asleep in seconds.

"My entire self is utilized 100 percent of the day," he said. "When I wake up in the morning it's so hard. I just want 10 minutes more of sleep."

A few months ago, Lanya was moved to Nyala. He noticed that although attacks on villages had decreased, everyone now seemed to own a gun. In addition to government troops, militiamen and rebels, there were bandits and civilians who said they had to protect their families.

"People now have guns around here like they have walking sticks," he said.

The environment had become both unpredictable and dangerous. One recent day, he was trying to help colleagues from a church aid group who had been detained and robbed by a rebel group. A day later, gunmen shot two African Union monitors just northwest of Nyala, severely injuring one. Then more roads were closed, making it harder to get to some of the camps.

"It's really frustrating," Lanya said. "You travel away from your friends and family and then the people you are trying to offer a service to, well, sometimes people in that country attack you." Lanya laughed and joked about his "African coping skills," but his eyes looked red with stress.

He had been up all night with the panic-stricken parents of a little girl with diphtheria, a bacterial throat infection. An operation was attempted, but the girl died during the night.

"It was good to stay with the parents," he said, rubbing his eyes. "But I need to plug up my emotions. I learned that emotions aren't helpful. Just finding solutions are."

For now, he guzzles sodas to stay awake and jokes to keep his spirits up. He said he felt good about helping Haja Hamid, who had left with skin lotions and a four-month supply of vitamins. But more patients were coming. A board on the wall listed 11 more names.

When he reaches Kenya on his next break, Lanya vowed: "I am just going to sleep and sleep. That's when I will really feel the impact of this war."


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