Waiting for the best luck
Health care is non-existent in many rural areas of South Sudan and people just surrender to the fate.
In Padding, a small remote village in South Sudan, inside a shelter still under construction, there is a crowd of people surrounding a woman lying on the ground. Her name is Nyanom, she is 26 years old and suffers a severe malaria infection. She came to Padding from an even smaller town, few miles away, and malaria surprised her when she was in the market. People dragged her to the hut and are now watching her expectantly, to see how her infection evolves. That’s all they can do, apart from a couple of pills that the local healer gave her. There is nothing more to do. The nearest clinic is ten hours on foot and the only thing left is to wait for the Nyanom’s body to survive.
This is the fate of those hundreds of thousands living in the rural South Sudan. With a life expectancy that the civil war and the economic crisis has reduced to 56 years, the South Sudanese just surrender themselves to the fate.
On this last occasion, Nyanom survived. She spent the night in a villager’s house and the next day she was able to walk back home, to wait for the next encounter.
Where are the men?
Women in South Sudan assume the hardest daily work, such as fetching water, bringing food at home and cooking it, collecting firewood and working in farms.
In Panthau, a small village in Northern Bahr al Gazhal, South Sudan, I see three distant people weeding their land. It’s noon, the sun is strong, it’s very hot and the humidity really high. When I get closer, I realise they are three women, a mother and her two older daughters, who are preparing the family land for the coming rains. All three are sweating and breathing heavily. After introducing myself, I ask them:
–Where are the men of the family?
–There! –they say pointing two hundred metres away.
Yes. There they are, resting under the shade of a tree.
I ask them:
–Why are you not working with the women?
–Because it’s too hot! –they firmly answer.
–Of course… (no more comments).
No other choice
Women in South Sudan have the great responsibility to give birth in hard conditions and raise families with little resources.
Txata is a mother of three children. She gave birth few days ago in Dangaji, a very remote village in Maban county, in South Sudan, where health services are really limited.
She lives with a disability in her right side of the body, but she keeps sustaining her family as best as she can. Her husband is away most of the time, and she is the only one to provide food, water and shelter to her children and her elder mother.
Life of women and mothers in South Sudan, as in many countries in Africa, is greatly tough. They assume the hardest work, even in their late pregnancies or when they need to look after newborn babies. There are no other choices. Lives are under their responsibility. And this is something totally hard to assume. Too hard.
According to WHO, South Sudan has one of the highest rates of maternal and neonatal mortality in the world, apart from the shocking rate of under-five mortality (10%).
Licence to kill for 25 dollars
Cheap guns and expensive cows: an explosive combination in South Sudan.
In South Sudan’s cattle camps, there are two very important possessions: the first one are, obviously, the cows, which are very appreciated because they enhance social prestige, and because are being used as currency of commercial transactions and marriage arrangements; the second one are the weapons, “indispensable” tools to defend against those who want to steal the cattle.
South Sudan is one of the countries in Africa with more arms. A very high rate of civilians has a rifle at home, either for cultural reasons or for safety. A Russian-made machine-gun, an AK-47, “only” costs $25 in the black market. It’s a “fair” price to defend the ownership of the cows, which can cost 10 times more.
After years of war, the arms culture is so ingrained in the country that cattle keepers, especially the youth, realize that apart from protecting their cows, with a machine-gun on their hands they can easily steal, rape, loot or kill. And this is already happening…
Gleaners in South Sudan
Hunger makes many South Sudanese people put on their knees to collect the last crumb of food.
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.