Tom Catena in Time Mag: Aid Must Go Where It Is Most Needed

The difficulties of running a hospital in a conflict zone, however, cannot be underestimated. The staples for running a hospital anywhere else in the world— electricity and running water— are a luxury to us. And, most types of foreign aid are nonexistent.

Dr. Tom Catena is a surgeon and Catholic missionary who for many years was the only doctor permanently based in Sudan’s war-torn Nuba Mountains. He is one of five finalists for the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, which is awarded annually in Yerevan, Armenia, on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors. This year’s ceremony will be held on May 28.

The Nuba Mountains in southern Sudan is a rugged region the size of Austria and home to 750,00 men, women and children. It is also a conflict zone. Since 2011, a war has raged between the Government of Sudan, and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement, who are demanding self-determination and power-sharing for the Nuba people.

Caught in the middle of the struggle are those living in the mountains. They have suffered tremendously, with aerial bombardments a daily occurrence for many years. Villages and farms have been targeted, forcing the local population to flee into the mountains where they have little or no food. As can be expected, mass starvation has followed.

As one of two doctors at the region’s only hospital, I have experienced the atrocities and hardships of this war, firsthand. There have been times when I’ve treated as many as 500 people in a single day. Men who have received terrible burns across their bodies; toddlers who have lost legs to shrapnel wounds; people with leprosy and malnutrition; and children severely burned during middle-of-the-night attacks. It is an endless parade of victims with every war zone injury imaginable.

Keep reading