This year we had an outbreak of meningitis. Biachirike hobbled into the hut unable to move her head. She was the oldest person to be stricken and had walked four days from her home to the displaced camp because of the war in Southern Sudan. She failed to get vaccine because she was building her house. I took her to the grass thatched “hospital” and asked the medical assistant to do her spinal tap. A bit of confusion ensued as she, a member of the Latuho Ethnic Group, asked what this Dinka man was going to do to her.
The Dinka nurse told her, “Mama, we are all your children and couldn’t hurt you.” She accepted this and acquiesced to the procedure, which confirmed that she had meningitis.
After two weeks of treatment, she was ready to go home. I reminded her of her question to “that Dinka man” and pointed out that he saved her life.
One of the nurses added, “This hospital is like a church. When people come here, we don’t notice their tribe; only that they are sick.” The old woman shook my hand and headed for the door. Three Dinka women called out to her, begging her to say goodbye to them, too. As she shook each person’s hand, I hoped they would “remember” they are sisters and brothers. Otherwise, this war will never end.