Dr. Atar cares for war-wounded and sick locals and refugees at a Samaritan's Purse-supported hospital in South Sudan, Africa.
January, 2013—Dr. Atar Evan Adaha is a surprisingly cheerful man for someone who has spent the last 16 years trying to sew thousands of victims of the civil war in Sudan, Africa back together again.
The youthful looking surgeon attributes his near-constant smile to his faith in Jesus Christ-The Great Physician.
Dr. Atar, as he is affectionately known by his patients and Samaritan’s Purse colleagues, received his medical training in Egypt, then began working at Samaritan’s Purse’s hospital at Kurmuk (now part of South Sudan, Africa) in 1997. That was near the midpoint of what would become a 20-year civil war between Sudan’s mostly Arab population in the north and mostly black African population in the south.
At the hospital in Kurmuk, Dr. Atar operated on not only civilians but soldiers-members of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army intent on overthrowing the government in Khartoum, Sudan and its persecution of black Africans.
His willingness to aid members of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army made Dr. Atar, and the hospital itself, a target for attacks by northern Sudan government soldiers. Those attacks continued long after the 2005 peace settlement, due in part to the fact that some Sudanese People’s Liberation Army soldiers found themselves on the northern side of the border when South Sudan, Africa gained official independence last July, and have continued to fight against the north since then.
Khartoum, Sudan military leaders bombed the area around Kurmuk hospital so regularly and aggressively that Samaritan’s Purse abandoned the site in November 2011 and moved the medical personnel and equipment to the Doro refugee camp near the South Sudanese city of Maban, where we have helped provide water, food, medical aid, and other relief services.
A dedicated doctor
Dr. Atar is admired by the South Sudanese for remaining in Kurmuk, Sudan until every other staff member had been evacuated and almost all equipment removed-continuing to operate on patients while bombs fell nearby. He is also viewed as a hero in the Doro refugee camp for his willingness to put in crushingly long hours-sometimes 24 at a time-as the only surgeon in the region with a population of more than 200,000 people.
The next nearest surgical facility is an eight-hour drive away. During a typical day recently, Dr. Atar’s patients included several people with broken bones, including one with a broken femur, others with internal injuries (including a young man with a ruptured abdomen), and a soldier whose injuries from an explosion included the loss of both eyes and part of his lips.
At the end of his time in the Samaritan’s Purse-built operating room, Dr. Atar carefully went from bed to bed in the neighboring wards, talking with, encouraging, and clasping hands with almost every patient.
When someone suggested to Dr. Atar that he deserves public recognition for his passionate and loving commitment to his patients, the smiling doctor thanked God for his medical giftedness, and thanked Samaritan’s Purse for its faithful support of his work in Kurmuk, Sudan and now in the Doro refugee camp.
“If it wasn’t for Samaritan’s Purse, I don’t know how many lives I would have lost. So much would not have been possible without them.”