A very good friend of mine, Scott Shannon, recently spearheaded a project to get some Cuban trained Sudanese doctors back to help rebuild Southern Sudan. It’s an amazing story:
. . . From [refugee camps in] Ethiopia, they were sent by boat to Cuba — part of a group of 600 youngsters given the daunting task by the 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 later entered Canada as refugees, discovered their Cuban medical credentials were not recognized, and labored for years in factory jobs. . .
Through a program with Samaritan’s purse, Scott managed their residencies in Kenya which was the final phase of preparing them to work in Sudan.
“Everybody’s hoping and wishing for the best … but not taking quite as much stock of how really degraded their knowledge and skills were from all those years. Which is nothing against them,” said Scott Shannon, an American doctor who is running their training program in Kenya.
They recently graduated, but now life is even tougher:
. . . Many became Canadian citizens, and are returning to a country that they have not known for years, where life is harder than almost anywhere else on the planet. . .
. . . They are also making far less money than they did working at meat-packing plants in Canada. . .
The health-care system in south Sudan is nearly non-existent. It’s now estimated that there is about one doctor for every 192,000 people and many of those aren’t clinically active. (In Canada, the ratio is closer to one for every 600 people).
Still, Sudan is the place that Dr. Deng and the others dream of returning to. Some of the south Sudanese friends they left behind in Canada could not believe that they would want to return.
“They are saying, ‘You guys are crazy; here you have everything, why do you have to go back?’” Dr. Simon Mori said. “For many people, it’s hard to understand that, but we understand exactly. If we don’t come back those people will stay in this position forever, but if we come back we can make them dream that at the end of the tunnel, there will be a light. Because up to now, they don’t have any dream.”
Now that they have all “graduated,” Scott is working with IMA World Health and to help develop the health system for two states in Southern Sudan.