Flood Destroys Elegu – A Health Center that wasn’t to be

Phase 1 – Great hope
In March, we rode a trusty-rusty pickup with enthusiastic nurse Walter to the frontier town of Elegu on the South Sudanese border. High population, no health center, traders with a bit of money. What location could be better? The place even came with our Bishop’s recommendation.


Optimism, Hope and an Amazing nurse Walter

Phase 2 – Bewilderingly slow
Things started surprisingly slowly. Only 60 patients came the first month. 97 the second. Walter was bored. The patients who came appreciated the service greatly, but we were bewildered by how few there were. After an amateur advertising campaign where we shouted through a megaphone, smeared A4 notices around town, and gained the trust of the local Maadi tribe, things started to pick up.

Phase 3 – Maybe yes?
In July, the clinic broke even for the first time, with a bunch of sick patients coming for IV treatment, in addition to more minor conditions. 175 patients for the month. Walter called excitedly with the statistics, sharing that the word had spread, that people were appreciating him, the health center, and the care- the only high quality care available in the area.

Flooding Elegu

Some parts of Elegu flooded even worse than our healht center

FLOODED OUT  – We’ll never know

On Tuesday 22nd August, at around 4:00pm the banks of the Unyama River burst. The flooding was swift and violent. The scale is huge – as of now at least 3 people have been found dead, and over 2000 are displaced. Our nurse Walter Ran 50 meters to the clinic from his hut in an attempt save the drugs, but only managed to gather half before the water reached waist deep. By the time he filled a bag with drugs, his own home was flooded. He lost all his rice and beans, but him and his wife made it safely up to the safety of the raised main road. I thought he exaggerated when he said the water level reached over a meter, until I saw the water line on our drug cupboard today. Around 1.2 meters high. Today, a week later the water is still ankle deep, and Fiona from our Health office went to Elegu to retrieve the Cupboard, desks and other equipment that were covered in mud. Amazingly the clinic hadn’t been looted. We spent this afternoon washing them up, so we can use them in another health center soon. It hurts to lose Elegu clinic. something that could have done so much good. Time to mourn and move on.

Water line from flooding

So much malaria medication

Ruined Drugs

Cleaning up

The crew cleans up back at the office

There’s a great song, “Flood Waters” by Josh Garrells (do listen) which discusses a deep love which can’t be washed away. A love which can’t fail no matter what. Our love for this place, and Walther’s love for the people he treats won’t be washed away by this flood. We’ll all find new ways to put it into action.

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8 Responses to Flood Destroys Elegu – A Health Center that wasn’t to be

  1. Kaye says:

    Such sadness as I read about the flooding ,your health centre and the loss of lives, so I can’t imagine how you, Walter and the community must be feeling. As you all begin to come to terms with this tragedy, I’m sure that your love and commitment will find a way through, and that the aid agencies will be there to help all the displaced families.
    Sending you all our heartfelt love ❤️
    Kaye x

    • ntlaing says:

      Thanks so much for the encouragement Kaye! We’re actually feeling surprisingly OK about it, which is probably a combination of things including that hard things like this happen a lot, and that there’s a lot of good stuff going on as well. On the superficial side my sister is coming over next week for a holiday which is great :). Love straight back at you.

  2. Dorothy Bhanabhai says:

    aroha- thoughts and prayers. Appreciate the Josh garrels link too.

  3. Ray says:

    Hi Nick
    Given the “break even at last” mentioned in ‘Phase 3’, are there thoughts of re-establishing now you have traction with the locals?

  4. ntlaing says:

    Hey Ray great question! Of course we’d love to, but there are a whole lot of challenges as it stands. I doubt it will be possible in the next 6 months, but who knows in the future?
    1. People have moved away from the place (between 2000 and 5000 displaced), and the population is now much, much lower. The people would have to come back en masse, to make it viable again.
    2. There’s a lot of talk that they may move the border somewhere else, which doesn’t lie below the level of an enormous river which runs into the Nile! A whole lot of donors have paid millions for enormous buildings as border infrastructire, so there will be a lot of resistance but its up in the air at this point. Also this is the main point refugees come through, so I don’t know what they’d do about that if the border moved as well.
    3. There’s no reason to think at the moment that it won’t flood again. It flooded last year (not as bad), and they built stop banks and trenches to try and stop it but you can see what that achieves. Obviously we lost a lot of drugs, a solar unit and a few other things, so the risk of flooding again has to be taken into account. The risk is definitely too high of a re-flood before dry season (December) this year so that would be the earliest possible time.

    Thanks for bringing it up, we should definitely think about it in future!

  5. Pingback: Head above water. A heartwarming story! | Ugandapanda

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