South Sudan is the world’s fastest-growing and third largest refugee crisis.
According to the UN, 1.9 million South Sudanese citizens are currently internally displaced persons (IDPs). This means that they have had to flee their home (in this case due to conflict) but remain within their country’s borders. This huge number of vulnerable people are in dire need of protection, shelter and medical care – 85% of South Sudanese refugees are women and children. However, MIT economist Esther Duflo writes:
‘Compared to income or assets in the hands of men, income or assets in the hands of women is associated with larger improvements in child health, and larger expenditure shares of household nutrients, health, and housing.’
This is one reason why AID is working to equip South Sudanese women to provide for themselves and their families – enabling women to take steps forward is integral to supporting South Sudan in the midst of the ongoing conflict.
One way in which this happens is through the work of the Trumpeter Community Health Project. Mary Ruben is an internally displaced person from Gondokoro who was forced to flee her home due to fighting. She is working hard to provide for her five children and keep them safe. With the help of the Trumpeter sanitation workers, she has gained new knowledge of hygiene best practice and now has access to clean drinking water. To put this into context, UNICEF reported at the end of 2017 that:
‘Some 90 per cent of the population [of South Sudan] do not have access to improved sanitation, and over 5.3 million people urgently require safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) support.’
The Trumpeters are fighting tooth and nail to change these statistics and in this past year, they have seen some considerable victories. Although the same UNICEF document states that 2017 saw ‘the longest-running cholera outbreak’ in South Sudan as a whole, the Trumpeters report that in the areas of Juba where they operate, there have not been any reported cases of cholera this past year. Furthermore, the Trumpeters have visited 10,080 households and 2,456 families have installed new latrines with their help. Slowly but surely, they are bringing lasting change in a desperate situation. Following training from the Trumpeters, Mary had this to say:
‘I have benefited from learning how to treat water, we now drink clean drinking water. I am now able to prevent diarrhoeal diseases and when I go back to my actual village, I will teach other women.’
Thank God that Mary is determined to pass on her new skills to other women – it is through proactive women such as her that South Sudan will stand to its feet and move forward.
‘See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.’ – Deuteronomy 32:39