Lou Kobojis Health Startup in South Sudan – Restart after Catastrophe

Dr Koboji has founded a health training institute for midwifes, nurses and general health care workers in Kajo Keji, South Sudan. His goal: to improve the medical infrastructure his home country so desperately needs. From the day it was founded in autumn 2016, the institute was a consistent story of success despite all the problems and obstacles an endeavour of this format could potentially come across in such a young and shattered country. Until the day of the catastrophe. Now, an even more challenging time has begun.

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 continued to go ahead as planned. On 21 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. It remains unclear who the gunmen were and what the motive behind the attack was.

KKHTI_1

“After the attack, it was peaceful in Kajo Keji. […] 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 and 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.

As a consequence, discussions with the students, their families, the local community and the school administration about the future of the institute 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. When we met via Skype and talked I was impressed by his moral strength and his willpower to make the world a better place. It all begun when Lou Louis Koboji visited South Sudan as a medical consultant in 2011 and became witness of a devastating health care situation. Lou soon experienced the fatal consequences that the lack of qualified health care workers in South Sudan caused – South Sudan had (and has) the highest maternal mortality in the whole world.

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 decided to do so – saving lives in South Sudan became his ultimate goal. After several months of planning, securing funding and employees, the not-for-profit health training institute Kajo-Keji (KKHTI) opened its doors to welcome the 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 to build additional classrooms and to retain staff. This was particularly difficult at the time due to the unstable political situation and the high inflation of the South Sudanese pound.

KKHTI_3When 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.KKHTI_4

Since January 2017, the KKHTI has 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 programmes in four refugee camps in Uganda are organised to support fellow refugees. Now, again, Lou and the KKHTI are back to the stage of trying to secure funds. Building new teaching facilities remains important, but this time their first priority 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

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

 

You can find more stories on start-ups on wunderding.co.

SARAH HOUBEN

She has been part of WUNDERDING since December 2015. After a BSc in Bio Sciences in Germany and a MSc in Biological Photography & Imaging in the UK, she is now working as a Publishing Assistant for Scientific Reports whilst venturing further into the world of scientific photojournalism.

You can find some of her work here: http://imagesandviews.com 

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