Global Lens Reflections on life, the universe, and everything

Selling nets

Eight-year old Zacarias Moses is carried unconscious into the Wau Teaching Hospital, in Wau, South Sudan, by his grandmother on September 27, 2012. Suffering from malaria, he died the next day. The health care system in the world's newest country remains woefully deficient, suffering a lack of trained personnel and resources. (Paul Jeffrey)

Zacarias Moses died last night. He was 8 years old. I met him yesterday when I saw his grandmother carry his unconscious body into a hospital in Wau, South Sudan. I followed and photographed Moses, who was suffering from malaria, as the nurses cared for him. After a while, a prolonged series of convulsions stopped when he went into respiratory arrest. The nurses resuscitated him as I stood with his mother and grandmother. When I later left the hospital he was more stable, but still running a high fever and had a heart rate of over 160. During the night he stopped breathing again, but this time they couldn’t save him.

I came back to South Sudan this month because after the euphoria of last year’s independence celebration, the world has moved on to other stories, leaving this small country, struggling with so many challenges, virtually forgotten. Yet many of us believe we need to stay focused here, even more so because South Sudan isn’t being given a chance to develop in peace. Khartoum continues to make people pay for choosing freedom. Even though the two countries agreed yesterday to resume oil production, the Sudanese government continues to bomb along the border, particularly in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile area, and is dropping supplies to anti-government militias inside the country. This is happening at the same time as Khartoum steps up its renewed assaults on civilians in Darfur. As a result, people die, including small malnourished children like Zacarias. He and other victims of aggression deserve a better health care system, and their families deserve a chance to plant food and harvest it, build houses and live in them, in peace and unafraid.

I’m staying in Wau with an international Catholic group that’s helping this new country build its health care system. The community gathers every morning and evening to pray together. Every day they recite together the Magnificat. We Protestants could learn from repeating those words. God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. That’s a world where 8-year old children need not die.

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