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Lou Kobojis Health Startup in South Sudan – Restart after Catastrophe

Last year we published a first article about Lou Koboji and his health startup in South Sudan. Now – after a horrible event in September 2016 – we talked to Lou again.

Dr Koboji has founded a health training institute for midwifes, nurses and general health care workers in Kajo Keji, South Sudan – with the aim to build up the direly needed medical infrastructure of his home country. Until Autumn 2016, the institute was a consistent story of success despite all the problems and obstacles an endeavour of this format could come across in this young and shattered country. Until the day of the catastrophe. Now, an even more challenging time has begun.

Students at the Kajo Keji Health Training Institute before the attack.

Since July 2016, political rivalries had been leading to the continuous spreading of violence over South Sudan. However, Kajo Keji and the Kajo Keji Health Training Institute (KKHTI) had remained a peaceful haven and the training of new health care workers was going ahead as planned. However, on the 21st September 2016, the violence also reached the KKHTI – armed gunmen attacked the institute while the year-one students were sitting down for their final exams. Two students were killed, others were injured. Until now it is unknown who the gunmen were and what the motive behind the attack was.

“After the attack, it was peaceful in Kajo Keji, October, November, December. […] But I felt that it was not secure to stay around South Sudan so I gave the students the opportunity to choose where to study – Arua [Uganda] or South Sudan and most students chose Arua. But at the same time violence erupted around Kajo Keji. The hospital, another school are now also closed – there is virtually nothing in Kajo Keji at the moment.”, said Lou Louis Koboji when we had a skype call two weeks ago.

Discussions about the future of the institute with the students, their families, the local community and the school administration took place in November 2016. As a result of these difficult meetings and due to new turmoil in the area, it became clear that the institute had to be relocated. With the help of the Ministries in South Sudan and Uganda, Lou organised the move of the school to Arua, in Northern Uganda.

I first heard of Lou and his institute in February 2016 and when we met via Skype and talked I was impressed by his moral strength; his willpower to make the world to a better place. It had all begun when Lou Louis Koboji had visited South Sudan as a medical consultant in 2011. The health care situation of the young country back then had already been devastated. Lou had soon experienced the fatal consequences that the lack of qualified health care workers in South Sudan brought along – South Sudan had (and has) the highest maternal mortality in the whole world.

Dr Lou Louis Koboji

Therefore, after having fled Sudan 26 years ago, Lou decided to leave his good employment in Uganda and to return to his roots. He knew that he had the qualifications and knowledge to change the situation in South Sudan and therefore he had decided to do so – saving lives in South Sudan became his goal. And after several months of planning, securing funding and employees, the not-for-profit health training institute Kajo-Keji (KKHTI) opened its doors to welcome its first students and to train a new generation of health care workers to save lives in South Sudan. At the time, the main struggle that the KKHTI faced, was securing additional funding; in order to build additional classrooms and to be able to retain the staff – it was difficult at the time due to the unstable political situation and the consequent inflation of the South Sudanese pound.

When we spoke again, this time via email, in Autumn of 2016, things had been going well for the KKHTI. Thanks to the Segal Foundation, new classrooms had been built, over 200 students were studying at the institute and the first 50 students were going to graduate the following January. But after the attack, everything changed. I hadn’t been following the news as closely as I maybe should have – therefore the initial joy of receiving an email from Lou in April this year, was quickly pushed aside by shock when reading the news of the attack. However, I was even more in awe of Lou and his students, who were still committed to saving lives in South Sudan.

“Our first priority of the funding is to give the students who have chosen to do clinical medicine the chance to finish their course and go back to South Sudan and to save lives” Lou Louis Koboji

Since January, the KKHTI had reopened its doors to 130 of its students who had fled South Sudan and are now refugees in Arua, Uganda. At the moment, classes are being taught in tents and rented facilities and practicals are carried out in hospitals within Arua. Regular medical outreach programs in four refugee camps in Uganda are organised to support fellow refugees. Now, again, Lou and the KKHTI are back at the stage of trying to secure funds. This time, while building new teaching facilities is again of great importance, their first priority now is the funding of the students – so that they can complete their studies, return to South Sudan and continue saving lives.

To make this come true, a new fundraising campaign was soft-launched today.
Fundraising Campaign: https://donate.kajokejihealthtraining.org/campaign/training-the-health-heroes-of-south-sudan/c126140 

An update with more information on the situation in Arua will follow soon.

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