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Story Publication logo June 4, 2007

"Tradition" and who we are


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Gabriel Deng, Koor Garang and Garang Mayuol, Southern Sudanese "Lost Boys" in the U.S., were forced...

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Multiple Authors

David Morse, for the Pulitzer Center

Two encounters with traditional medicine in southern Sudan brought home to me very vividly a sort of fault-line that runs through life here and also through our Lost Boys.

I was interviewing couple of older women under the shade of a big tree that serves as the meeting place at the Women's Compound, when a girl ten or eleven ran up to one of them, who clealy has a reputation as a healer. The girl had fallen at play and hurt her hand. She was in obvious pain. She put out her hand; the womn seized it and massaged the thumb deeply in its socket. Whether the thumb was broken or dislocated was not clear. The girl gritted her teeth and remained utterly silent while undergoing this process. It seemed to be a dislocation - the sort of injury that a western doctor would have addressed with a gentle assessment and then, if sure of himself or herself, would pull the thumb in a slow half-circle to return it to the socket. If unsure, X-rays.

The old woman seemed to know what she was doing. The girl returned to her play, innocent of Xrays and legal fees. All was well.

In a second encounter, I was walking along the road to the market when a young man came up to me and said "My mother is very sick." He pointed: a hundred yards away I could see someone being carried in a bed in the other direction, in the direction of the new clinic that Jumpstart Sudan is constructing. I turned around and followed. I was joined by Garang, who translated for me. The woman was thirty years old. She had gone into labor May 5 - nearly a month ago. After three days of labor it was clear something had to be done, so the midwife did the only thing she knew to do to save the woman's life. She cut up the baby and withdrew it in pieces through the vagina. Some pieces of baby or placenta may have been left inside, or the woman may have been cut, but in any case it had now been nearly a month and she was in continual pain.

(to be continued)


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Peace Initiatives

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