Fortitude in the Nuba Mountains

Rada, Asha, their mother Jalia, with little brother

Rada and Asha, despite their extensive burns, are the lucky ones. The sisters, aged six and seven, survived the bombing of their village along with one of their little brothers.

Because planes target their village continuously, the children live in foxholes, leaving only to use the toilet. Their family built a small grass hut next to the foxhole to store food. When the bombs fell, the thatch burst into flames. The combustible structure fell onto the children. Three died instantly. Another three perished at Gidel Hospital, of tetanus and other complications of extensive burns. In all, Rada and Asha lost a brother and five cousins.

“If it were not for the hospital, more would have died,” explains their mother, Jalia. Three of her children received care at Gidel Mother of Mercy Hospital and survived. The facility is the only functioning general hospital for a million people facing war, poverty and isolation.

The morning following our interview, while on rounds with Dr. Tom Catena, Jalia and I exchange glances. Mothers share a bed with their children on the over-crowded wards. Jalia smiles broadly and waves. From where does this well of fortitude come in the midst of terror and loss? Stunned, I smile and wave back.

Life is for the living.

Reported March 2015 visit

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