April 30, 2013

Pediatric hospital in Port Sudan serves the very poor

An Italian NGO has built an 18 bed pediatric hsopital outside Suakin to serve the children of very poor Sudanese, including local Beja.

 There are three outpatient clinics, hospitalisation and sub-intensive care wards, a dispensary, service areas and professional staff, modern equipment and spotlessly clean rooms. As the first free pediatric clinic in Africa, the hospital has been a lifeline for some of the continent’s most underprivileged mothers and their children. Many of the patients here are recent arrivals to a nearby refugee camp. The clinic they use is as good as any that can be found elsewhere in the continent and at the very least offers their children a better chance of life.
Raul Pantaleo, the architect and one of the board members of Emergency and partner in Tamassociati, explains: ‘During the war, a lot of refugees moved to Port Sudan so right now the city is in the middle of nowhere and rapidly expanding. The clinic is based in a huge area of poor people and it’s the only medical facility for children available to them.’ He explains that the clinic, like others built by Emergency, are designed to meet Italy’s own standards of construction and medical requirements, which ensures world class treatment for all its users.

The hospital design includes a garden. The architect says, ‘Gardens are not a marginal part of our designs, they are somehow the centre of our projects. We want in two years for there to be a real garden and real trees. What makes the building friendly is the garden; it’s somewhere that makes them feel comfortable. They can sit down and the kids love to walk on the grass. It’s like a playground for them.’ It is not just children who take advantage of the space: ‘It has become something of a meeting point for the whole community as it’s the only place where there are shadows and water in the daytime and light in the nighttime.’
Port Sudan Pediatric Centre occupies an area close to the ancient city of Suakin and its aesthetics found their way into many visual aspects of the structure. ‘It was completely built with coral stone. Nowadays, everyone in Port Sudan is using concrete bricks but before building we decided to use traditional coral stone and brick for the façade,’ says the architect.

To counter the climatic extremities of Sudan, Pantaleo turned to traditional ways of cooling and as with all Emergency projects, local advice and skills were central to the successful outcome of the project. ‘There are fantastic people in Port Sudan called the Beja, who are desert people and are one of the biggest populations in the region,’ he says. ‘We had technicians come in for the building who worked there permanently with local people. We only used a special technician for finishing, like tiles, but all the rest was built by the local community.’

 ‘Our buildings are quite simple, but they are still very rooted in their traditions. When it was unveiled the people couldn’t believe there was such a clean and efficient hospital for free, just for them. It was a sort of miracle and a wonderful feeling because they perceived that we really do take care of them. It is a matter of respect,’ he says. To ensure that Port Sudan’s population has some sense of ownership towards the building, Emergency has trained local staff so that the clinic remains a Sudanese enterprise. ‘Apart from a pediatrician and a nurse, the rest are all Sudanese. We want to keep a high standard to the clinic. We don’t just build a hospital and then move away.’

See more pictures and read the full article. 

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