Nicci Maxwell, South Sudan

Nicci Maxwell, South Sudan

Providing paediatric and neonatal medical care to local and refugee communities, and training and supporting local paediatric teams.

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Based in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, I divide my time between supporting the establishment of a neonatal service and training future paediatricians at the Al Sabah Children’s Hospital, and working in basic health care at Gorom Refugee Settlement. South Sudan has the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the world and fourth highest rates of both infant and child deaths, so good paediatric care is desperately needed.

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Nicci’s story

I trained as a doctor in South Africa before moving to the UK where, after almost 20 years in the NHS (including nearly 10 years as a consultant neonatologist) I returned to Africa on a short term placement with CMS in Kisoro, Uganda. That short term placement extended to almost seven years before leaving the work in the hands of an exceptional local team and moving on to a new adventure in South Sudan.

South Sudan became an independent country in 2011. As a country it has struggled with its own internal conflicts and the effects of conflict and instability in its neighbours. Many South Sudanese have been internally displaced and others have come as refugees from surrounding countries. Around half of the more than 11 million people in South Sudan are under 17 years old.

I am seconded to ACROSS, an interdenominational Christian organisation working holistically with communities to transform lives across South Sudan.

ACROSS works with UNHCR to provide assistance and protection to refugees in Gorom Refugee Settlement, Central Equatoria State, and urban refugees in Juba. Their work includes education, health, shelter, water and sanitation, and supporting medical referrals and logistics for refugees coming to Juba from refugee camps throughout the country. My role is predominantly in providing basic outpatient and emergency care for children attending the Gorom camp health facility and following their care through to hospital in Juba if needed. I hope to establish a training programme for nurses and lay health workers in the refugee settlement.

At Al Sabah Children’s Hospital, I provide medical care to newborns and older children and will be working to establish a high quality neonatal service in the hospital. Alongside this I will be training current and future paediatricians to supplement the very small number of specialists in the country and hopefully inspire a future neonatologist or two as there are currently (2024) none!

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