For readers who aren’t fully aware of the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) we are an international charitable organisation active in 149 counties throughout the world. I’m visiting South Sudan as a member of the SVP (England & Wakes) International Twinnage Committee responsible for Sudan. I’ve visited our members in Khartoum many times in the last 13 years but, up to now it’s been considered unsafe to visit South Sudan.
Sudan’s civil war is similar to that which we now see in Syria – the southern rebels fight with the Khartoum Government dominated life since 1956. Amnesty International report that 2 million people have been killed and 4 million people were displaced from Southern Sudan to the North. The peace agreement signed on the 9th January 2005 resulted in the formation of South Sudan on the 9th July 2011. Some of the displaced people are now beginning to return home.
Our hosts are the SVP South Sudan Central Council President Lucy Akello, who is taking us to see some of the beneficiaries; the main work of the SVP, as in England & Wales is carried out on a one to one basis by our members. Our other host is Dr Betram Kuol who is responsible for the major support Programmes which help many tens of thousands of people. These programmes are Vocational training, Medical clinics, and Baby feeding.
The first thing that hit me was the sharp contrast in the landscape. Compared to the sub-Saharan desert of the barren north, South Sudan is green. However, the picturesque round mud brick houses with straw roofs only serve to hide abject poverty. In the first village we visited today we were told that some of the villagers couldn’t go out into the surrounding fields because of land mines – in fact 5 people were killed only 3 weeks ago. However the community spirit is absolutely incredible. We live in what could be called a reasonably affluent area; the houses have long drives and as a result we rarely see neighbours. In the village we saw today people live in close proximity to each other. They share their possessions and even cook for each other. I’m not going anywhere the question “What would I choose if I did have the choice?” but it does make you stop and think!!!
………..To be continued………….