International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Catching up with my friend, Nyibol Akol Padiet

I first met Nyibol Akot Padiet, a volunteer home-based community health provider, in southern Sudan on my very first assignment with the International Rescue Committee. That was in 2010, and though not so long ago, much has happened since. In January 2011 the South Sudanese voted in a referendum to secede from Sudan, and in August, they were living in the world’s newest nation. Meanwhile, 37-year-old Nyibol celebrated the birth of a new grandchild in October.

As she has done since I’ve known her, Nyibol provides health care from her home for children under five. “I have been doing this work since July 2009 and I still enjoy it,” she says. She treats between 10 and 20 children a month. “At the moment, I have been seeing a lot of malaria and pneumonia cases and a few diarrhea cases. Thankfully, in the three years that I have been working for the IRC, I haven’t experienced a death.”
Nyibol is proud of her work and the difference she makes in her community. “Through my volunteer work, children’s lives have been saved,” she says. “There are many poor people who cannot afford to buy medication. So, for the IRC to provide medicines free of charge, it’s such a relief for everyone. Access to these medicines means they don’t have to walk long distances to the nearest health center.”
Since South Sudan gained independence, Nyibol believes her life has improved. “We don’t live in fear like before,” she says, referring to the half-century of conflict in Sudan brokered by the initial peace agreement in 2005. “There is no more insecurity. It feels amazing to live in a free country and not to have to worry about getting killed by bombs or guns.”
Nyibol sits under a tree near her home

Nyibol in November 2012, shortly after celebrating the birth of her new grandchild.  “Through my volunteer work, children’s lives have been saved,” she says. 

Photo: IRC

Nyibol and her husband tend a small plot of land where they grow sorghum, millet and maize and raise a few cows and goats for milk. She hopes that her husband, who is out of work, will gain employment to make it easier for their three teenage daughters to achieve their goals (their two other daughters are married). All three want to work in health care like their mother. “I would like them to further their education to become independent women in the society,” says Nyibol. “They are very smart and work hard at school.”
Meanwhile, she hopes that the South Sudan’s new government “will provide more support to communities—digging more boreholes, for example—which will result in everyone having access to water, especially during the drought season.” She knows that the community she serves is appreciative of her service and looks forward to the time when she and her neighbors can prosper together.
In 2010, there were 1,216 IRC-trained community health workers like Nyibol throughout South Sudan. Today there are 1,600. Since 2010, these volunteers have treated nearly 78,000 children in their communities.

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