For the past 19 years, the Lopiding field hospital in northern Kenya has cared for war victims from Sudan. The staff has cared for nearly 38,000 patients and performed tens of thousands of surgical operations. Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross is turning over operations of the hospital in Lokichokio to Kenyan authorities.
Jessica Barry is a spokesperson for the ICRC. From Khartoum, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the field hospital and its work.
“This is certainly a very historic moment. There was a peace agreement signed in the south of Sudan last year. And we feel now that really there is not the same need as there was before to send people who were war wounded to Kenya to be treated…. And also in the south of Sudan now there are facilities, which are being reconstructed, and those who are sick now should be able to be treated in Sudan.”
As field hospitals go, Lopiding is large. Barry says, “At peak periods it could take about 700 patients at a time. There were about 4,000 operations carried out every year…. We would think that it was certainly one of the biggest non-military field hospitals of all time. And I think what is important to remember that it was also a training hospital. There were about 300 medical personnel from south Sudan who came for training programs at Lopiding and then went back again to south Sudan afterwards to carry out their work.”
The ICRC spokesperson says this is a very emotional day for all those involved with Lopiding.