This lunar New Year (Tet), all 63 personnel of Vietnam’s Level-2 Field Hospital (L2FH) Rotation 2 in South Sudan should have been reunited with their families in Vietnam. However, their tenure has been extended for a couple of months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though they have to enjoy another Tet away from home, they are still happy to celebrate with many meaningful activities, contributing to beautifying the image of Vietnam among international friends.

Doctor Koma Akim’s story

From Bentiu, South Sudan, Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Quang Chien, Deputy Director of the hospital began his talk about the hospital’s support for local people with the story of his South Sudanese colleague named Koma Akim, a staff member at Bentiu Hospital.

Acting Minister of Education of Bentiu presenting Vietnam’s L2FH Rotation 2 a certificate of merit for its active engagement in civilian-military coordination activities in the place it is stationed

The story started with a quote from the mother of 13-year-old patient Miss Nyakola Tely, “My daughter is alive. Thank God and pray to God for Vietnamese doctors who operated on my daughter.”

Previously, Doctor Akim seemed helpless to perform a surgery on the child patient to remove a giant tumor on her right thigh because of the lack of gigli saw, an indispensable medical device needed for an amputation surgery. Luckily, the “miracle” appeared and he promptly received not only the gigli saw, but also other necessary medical equipment from Vietnamese doctors to help him complete the surgery.

Doctor Koma Akim and his colleagues from Bentiu Hospital were so touched with the timely assistance of Vietnamese doctors that he did not know how to express his deep thanks to the Vietnamese doctors in general and Dr. Chien in particular. At last, he decided to email the life-saving story of Tely to all of the agencies under the UN Mission in South Sudan in the hope of spreading this meaningful story as a special way of expressing gratitude to the Vietnamese doctors.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Vo Van Hien, director of the L2FH Rotation 2, in spite of facing numerous difficulties and shortages of equipment amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital’s staff is always ready to give support to the host country, even if they have to save a pill or a medical facemask.

In fact, Vietnam's field hospital has become a reliable health-care address, and a place for spiritual support for the UN Blue Beret Force in Bentiu. Health units under the UN mission are not the only ones that rely on Vietnam's field hospital, but also local hospitals have asked for the field hospital’s professional assistance and medical equipment during times of difficulty. With the spirit of “a good doctor is like an affectionate mother,” and getting approval from the UN Mission’s medical agency, the field hospital of Vietnam has never refused any request for medical assistance. The hospital’s hotline is available around the clock to give assistance to any patient.

As a good South Sudanese surgeon, who graduated from abroad, doctor Akim always trusts the Vietnamese colleagues and often consults with them. Once visiting the hospital for medical consultations, he was moved when the hospital staff made and presented small gifts, including drawing paper and crayons, to child patients under treatment at Bentiu Hospital. Akim showed Chien the photos of the patients receiving the crayons with joy on their faces and messaged that “My heart was broken when I saw children with such great potential in a skinny and sick condition.”

Though he could find a better job abroad, doctor Akim still prefers to work at Bentiu Hospital and he is happy because his humanitarian spirit is shared by Vietnamese colleagues.

Doctor Chien said that he asked doctor Akim to maintain the good relationship between Bentiu Hospital and Vietnam’s L2FH for the benefit of the local people.

In each gift to Bentiu primary students, there is a small piece of paper attached with information about Vietnam and late President Ho Chi Minh. Photo: Trong Tinh

According to doctor Tu Quang in charge of civilian-military coordination (CIMIC) activities of the field hospital, apart from their professional duties, the hospital’s personnel are responsible for making contributions to changing the lives of locals for the better. Through civilian-military coordination activities, Vietnamese doctors expect to spread the humane spirit of the Blue Beret Force.

Soldiers on the frontline

In the context that South Sudan is a COVID-19 flashpoint, the field hospital of Vietnam is assigned by the UN Mission to be one of the key hospitals on the frontline to fight the pandemic.

Last year, along with applying COVID-19 prevention and control measures, the Vietnamese hospital also carried out five programs to support South Sudan people in Bentiu. One of their programs involved making 31 sets of desks and chairs with Vietnamese and South Sudan flags and 100 sets of learning tools, toys and alphabet letters from recycled plastic products to present to Bentiu Primary School. This program was initiated by non-commissioned Senior Lieutenant Vu Anh Duc after a visit to a civilian protection area where he saw classrooms lacking essential items.

Each gift presented to the primary students was attached with a small piece of paper with English words introducing Vietnam and Late President Ho Chi Minh. As doctor Tu Quang said, he hoped that the children would learn more about Vietnam, a small, resilient country, half of the size of South Sudan, which underwent wars and has reaped great development achievements. He hoped this would inspire them to study hard to support their families and contribute to rebuilding South Sudan.

Regarding the civilian-military coordination activities of the Vietnam’s field hospital, Ms. Geraldine Chioma Nzulumike from the Reconciliation and Reconstruction Office and an envoy of the Head of the Field Office said that the deeds that Vietnamese doctors have done are typical for UN’s activities in South Sudan. These activities demonstrate the UN’s commitment to contributing to South Sudan’s sustainable development and peace. Vietnamese doctors have also inspired local students. She added that “if the hands with skills in surgeries and examinations can make such beautiful desks, tables and alphabet letters, you (South Sudanese students) should not be afraid to learn new things and try new things that are useful to the community and society!”.

Translated by Mai Huong