Photo: Francis Gatluak, one-time MSF patient, now the manager of the tuberculosis program at MSF’s hospital in Leer, South Sudan. South Sudan 2012 © John Stanmyer/VII Photo
The Patient Becomes the Healer
Three decades ago, when Francis Gatluak was a boy, civil war forced his family to flee their small village in Unity State, in the northern reaches of what is now South Sudan. He was diagnosed with kala azar, a disease that thrives in poor, unstable areas with limited health care.
Francis endured the difficult SSG treatment at MSF’s nearby camp, and recovered. Since he spoke some English, the staff asked him if he would stay and work with them as a translator. He did this for a few months, developing a desire to do more. “I started to learn about how I can help the patient,” he says. “If there are people who can give medication, I can also help to do the job, and help the community.”
Today, he is a nurse in his twenty-third year working with MSF. He has gone on MSF assignments in other African countries and recently returned to the Leer hospital, where he is now in charge of the tuberculosis ward. And he recently traveled to Washington, DC, to speak on the organization’s behalf when MSF was awarded the highly-esteemed 2012 J. William Fulbright Award for International Understanding.