Gleaners in South Sudan

  • Hunger makes many South Sudanese people put on their knees to collect the last crumb of food.
  • A woman collects grains of sorghum left on the ground after a food distribution in Ganyiel, South Sudan. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran – AFP.

    Some years ago I watched the documentary The Gleaners and I, by Agnès Varda, a film that I always keep in mind. It features all those people who collect what others throw away. From the moment I saw this movie, I have come across gleaners everywhere I travelled, but never as many as in South Sudan. Here, the last crumb has a value that in other places is not even considered. Empty plastic bottles, puddles, bags, old newspapers and above all, in places where humanitarian organizations distribute food, there is always a group of gleaners who pick up sorghum grains that have been left on the ground. For some people it may look below the human dignity, but it’s definitely a lesson of making the most of others’ waste.

    Fifteen children at home

  • The arrival of many displaced people in Yambio made Julie live in a real nursery.
  • Nine of the fifteen children living at Julie’s house play with a teddy bear. Photo by Albert González Farran – UNICEF

    Yambio, a town of 40,000 residents at the western border of South Sudan with DRC, is experiencing an unprecedented displacement. In the past months, indiscriminate attacks by armed groups in the rural area have forced hundreds of families flee to the city. They found accommodation in houses of relatives, friends, colleagues or even charitable souls who open their doors.
    Julie Adriano, a single mother of two children, lives in a nearly unbearable situation. Julie received some relatives who fled from Gitikiri village, but she also fostered two other children who lost their parents during the escape. Five adults take care of 15 children who flutter around the house. Her house has became a real nursery.
    The increase of water consumption, the shortage of food and the lack of soap and clothes are some of the main challenges that households are currently facing in Yambio.

    What do you do?
    16 November 2016. Aweil: Medair staff member, William Deng (18), is pictured at home after a day work at the the feeding centre (outpatient therapeutic programming) run by Medair in Aweil, South Sudan. Alarming levels of malnutrition and a severe malaria outbreak are putting thousands of lives at risks in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, South Sudan. A full-scale emergency response has been launched by the humanitarian community. Medair, an international emergency relief and recovery organisation, is part of this response and is providing emergency nutrition and health services, safe water, and sanitation and hygiene support. The emergency levels of malnutrition are compounded by a malaria upsurge in the past weeks and the limited access to water and sanitation facilities. The prevalence of malaria cases in the area has increased by 400 percent in nine weeks’ time. The limited availability of essential drugs and the small number of staff in health facilities have made it very difficult for people to receive adequate treatment in time unless they have enough money to pay. Medair’s emergency response team is providing critical services to the most vulnerable in the area. In the past weeks, the team has set up three emergency nutrition clinics to treat children under five with acute malnutrition and is aiming to establish four additional sites. The team is also providing emergency water, sanitation, and hygiene services and has opened a malaria treatment centre in Aweil town. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran - MEDAIR

    William Deng, a young boy at his hut in Aweil, South Sudan. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran – Medair.

    This is the conversation I had yesterday with William Deng, an 18-year-old humanitarian worker who lives in a small hut with his family on the outskirts of Aweil, South Sudan:

    – What do you do when you finish work?
    – I collect firewood with my father.
    – Yes. OK. But what do you do in your spare time?
    – I’m at home.
    – Fine, but what do you do at home?
    – ?
    – I mean if you do something, like reading…
    – Ah! I understand. No. I don’t read. I don’t have books.
    – Writing, listening to the radio, playing cards?
    – I have no paper, no radio, no cards…
    – So what do you do in your spare time?
    – I’m at home.

    A few years ago, an experienced aid worker who lives in Ethiopia told me ​​the word “boredom” does not even exist in many local African languages. Perhaps the word was invented by those companies that sell books, paper, radios and cards and want to convince us we need them to avoid boredom. But William didn’t seem bored to me.

    This can’t be true

  • A UN investigation reports a network from Eastern Europe and the Middle East providing arms to South Sudan
  • 16 October 2016. Malakal: Soldiers of the Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) cheer-up from the trench in Lelo village, outside Malakal, at the northern part of South Sudan, on October 16 2016. Heavy fighting broke out on Friday between SPLA (Government) and opposition forces in Warjok and Lelo villages, outside Malakal. SPLA commanders claim they succeeded to keep their positions and assure their forces just responded "on self defence". The army flew in journalists on Sunday to show that they retain control of the strategic city, even though rebels still vow to take it. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran - AFP

    A SPLA soldier cheers-up holding his weapon from the trench in Lelo village, outside Malakal, at the northern part of South Sudan. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran – AFP

    “Can’t this be true? This is the twentieth century, not the Middle Ages”. This was said by a Jewish boy to his father during the Nazi’s extermination and written by the Nobel prize winner Elie Wiesel in his amazing novel Night. It was published in the 50s, but the sentence is still valid in many current contexts. Conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Sudan and South Sudan have ashamed many of us who realise that mankind is still acting as apemen.
    But it’s not totally true. Wars, genocides and holocausts are more elaborated than we think. Those who kill and torture in many countries, mostly in Africa, are supported by big networks of businessmen from Europe, America and Middle East who are making huge fortunes. A recent UN investigation details that since 2014, companies from Bulgaria or Israel have been selling weapons to South Sudan, one of the countries with the biggest rate of arms among the population and suffering a bloody civil war for the past three years.
    It reminds me a lot the documentary film We come as friends, by Hubert Sauper, that explains very well the hypocrisy of the western world that thinks it can lecture African countries while fuelling disasters to get good profits.

    A broke middle class

  • The middle class in South Sudan is not only disappearing. It’s being ruined.
  • 9 September 2016. Juba: Tabitha Eliaba, director of the Human Resources centre at the Juba University, South Sudan, is pictured in a classroom. Tabith, 43 years old, has 5 children and earns 13,000 South Sudanese pounds every month (less than 200 US dollars). Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran9 September 2016. Juba: Tabitha Eliaba, director of the Human Resources centre at the Juba University, South Sudan, is pictured in a classroom. Tabith, 43 years old, has 5 children and earns 13,000 South Sudanese pounds every month (less than 200 US dollars). Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran

    Tabitha, university lecturer, earns 200 dollars a month and needs to feed five children at home. Photo by Albert González Farran

    Latest investigation by The Sentry reported that many political leaders in South Sudan “hid” in recent years billions of dollars from the international aid and now, with no shame, they show luxury houses overseas, millionaires bank accounts and leisure trips in first class and five star hotels.
    Meanwhile, the country is suffering one of the toughest humanitarian crisis in the planet. With an inflation that already exceeds 800%, five million people in urgent need of food and 2.5 million displaced and refugees because of an endless civil war, the country is in total collapse.
    The saddest part is that the middle-class citizens, those who have stable and important jobs and are supposed to put the country back on track, are not only disappearing, but are also being ruined. Doctors, teachers, civil servants and businessmen have so ridiculous salaries that can’t cover medical expenses or pay drinking water for their families.
    Betty, who is working in a hospital in Juba for 24 years, has now a devalued salary of $ 10 a month, which she didn’t received for the last four months due to the ministry bankrupt. Moses, who runs a fruit stand in the city, has sent his family to Uganda as refugees to ensure their meals; and Tabitha, a university lecturer with a “high” salary of nearly $ 200 a month, prays that her children don’t get sick and endanger the family economy.
    The poor class is increasing in the world’s youngest country and there won’t be a way back.

    Read the full article here.

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