Sunday, June 10, 2012
Monday, May 28, 2012
On April 8, the Sudanese government revoked the southerners' citizenship, calling them 'security threats' and giving them just under a month to leave the country. While some had the 'luxury' of being able to just pick up and leave, many South Sudanese were unable to make it out by the May 5 deadline. Some fled to camps in the city of Kosti, just south of Khartoum. Others faced threats of violence back in the capital city.
On May 14, the international community, led by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), began a humanitarian airlift to transport the southerners to South Sudan. As of Friday, IOM had transported 5,792 people to Juba, and they're now operating four flights a day between the two countries. The new South Sudanese citizens, called returnees, are being transported to large camps, one of which is just outside of Juba. There they register, wait for their belongings (which are shipped separately), and try to figure out what they are going to do in their new home.
I was able to visit the returnee camp just outside of Juba yesterday, where Sanjay and I volunteered with the International Medical Corps (IMC). The IMC deployed a Emergency Response Team to the camp as it was established, and they're providing free (but limited) medical care through a clinic at the camp. Both of the doctors we worked with came over from the US to help out, and one of them was a volunteer doctor in Libya last year during the revolution.
|The inside of the medical clinic|
|The outside of the medical clinic|
Given my limited medical knowledge, I helped register patients with Sanjay. As people entered the tent for treatment, we asked them for their name, age, and a description of what was wrong. Only a handful of people spoke any English at all, and I used my two semesters of Arabic to help me communicate. At a certain point, registration became a big game of charades, where I asked patients their names ("Ma ismook?"), ages ("Omrook?"), and then they pointed at different parts of their bodies until I realized what was wrong. The little guessing game made me realize just how difficult it was going to be for many of the returnees to start over in a new country. The official language of South Sudan is English, and the dialect of Arabic that some people in Juba speak is apparently unintelligible for most Arabic speakers from Khartoum. The language barrier will be just the first of many hurdles they face as new citizens of South Sudan.
After patients saw the doctor, they returned to us to check out and we entered their diagnoses. We logged dozens of cases of diarrhea, a few cases of malaria, and countless skin and eye diseases, among other things. We saw close to 250 patients, the largest number they'd seen yet in a day at the camp.
With flights coming in from Sudan every day, the camp faces many logistical and health challenges. They don't have enough latrines to provide proper sanitation, and there are two doctors and limited medication for the close to 5,000 people now occupying the camp. What's even worse though is the fact that it might be one of the best doctor-to-patient ratios in the country. We had a young girl be referred from a hospital in Juba to our tent clinic at the returnee camp because they believed the care was better at the camp.
One thing I kept trying to remember was that the returnees I met at the camp were the lucky ones--most southerners have yet to make it out of camps in Sudan. The humanitarian situation is becoming increasingly dire, and it's even more troubling to know that the government is putting people in this position. I keep asking myself--how can a nation strip people of citizenship based on ethnicity?
Groups like Human Rights Watch have denounced the move, telling the Sudanese government to reverse the decision and allow southerners to be allowed to stay in the north. This doesn't look probable though, and with increasing ethnic tensions in the north, it is important to keep a close look at how the government treats the groups of South Sudanese who are unable to leave the country. If Bashir decides to use force to make them cross the border, we could have an even larger humanitarian crisis in Sudan.
Friday, May 25, 2012
|Photo online of Deputy Minister Lokolong in her office|
On Thursday we got up and went to breakfast to say goodbye to Aduei and Sheldon--Aduei was headed to a conference in the UK and Sheldon was going to the Rift Valley Institute course on Sudan and South Sudan in Athi River, Kenya. We met Aduei's cousin Deng and stopped by her office to check it out.For lunch, we met with Amanda Hsiao of the Enough Project at a restaurant called Home and Away. I worked with Amanda last summer a bit at Enough and it was great getting to talk to her about what they're doing on the ground. Before Amanda got to the restaurant, a small deer (?) approached our table. I've been trying to figure out what it was for hours now, and my closest guesses are a Dik-Dik or a Duiker (although neither look exactly right). Fifty bucks to whoever can figure it out. Cutest animal ever.
|It's so small!|
|Cute mystery animal liked my backpack|
Sanjay and I walked over to the World Health Organization, where we had emailed them and set up a meeting with Dr. Moses, the country health systems director. Dr. Moses was incredibly brilliant, and he stressed just how related all of South Sudan's problems are to health. Without peace, security, and the proper infrastructure, there is no way that an effective health system can be put in place.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
|Sheldon, Sanjay, and I with the nursery kids|
|Amal wants to be the president of South Sudan when he grows up!|
|Sanjay doing the "human knot" with the kids. Best game ever.|
One of the things about the report that stuck out to me the most was this statistic: more than half of South Sudan’s population of 8.26 million is under the age of 18, and 72% of its people are under 30 years old. Protecting children needs to be a central part of development strategy in South Sudan if the country wants to ensure a successful future.
Monday, May 21, 2012
|Me and Aduei!|
|Sanjay and I checking out the White Nile|
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Sanjay and I took a 13-hour direct flight from Washington DC to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and then a 2-hour flight to Juba. We had a short layover in Addis Ababa, where we chatted with a South Sudanese student (who now lives and goes to school in Canada) about what it was like returning home to South Sudan for the first time in twelve years. The flight to Juba was also full of families returning home. Many of them carried on gifts for loved ones and the man sitting next to me said he was excited to be able to see his wife and kids after a being away from them for over a year.
|The screen on our flight to Addis Ababa.|
As we flew into Juba, I was amazed by how gorgeous South Sudan was. The landscape was flat and very green, speckled by trees and flowing rivers. It looked untouched. As we got closer to the ground, I could see tiny dirt roads and huts spread out for miles. We landed in Juba at noon and stepped off the plane onto the partially-dirt runway. There was a huge sign at the end of the runway that said "Juba International Airport" in English and in Arabic. We were all shuffled into one room (as far as I know, that was the entire airport) and we waited there for our bags. They threw all of the checked bags out onto the floor, and people wrestled each other to find theirs among the mess. Sanjay didn't recognize his back when they brought it out--the zipper was broken, it was tied together with rope, and parts of the front of the bag had been ripped off! Luckily, my stuff was still intact. We had to bring our bags over to a table to be searched by soldiers, and then to a window for customs. All of this took place in the same small room, with hundreds of people pushing and shoving to get out of the airport first.
Luckily, my good family friend, Aduei, met us at the airport and helped us through the chaos. She's one of 89 "lost girls of Sudan" who were resettled in the US after fleeing the violence of civil war. She's an incredible person and she's now living in Juba after recently finishing her masters at the London School of Economics. Aduei picked us up from the airport and took us to our hotel, which was about a mile away. I was amazed by how much Juba looked exactly like I had expected. The road we were driving on was paved, but most others were dirt. Almost every building looked dilapidated or closed, and there was unfinished construction everywhere. White UN vehicles were parked in front of every couple of buildings and armed SPLA (South Sudanese military) soldiers were everywhere. I didn't have a chance to snap many pictures, but I definitely will tomorrow.
Aduei's friend Sheldon, a graduate student in international development at the University of Florida, came with Aduei to pick us up. He remarked at how none of the buildings we were seeing were there when he first visited Juba in 2009. I've heard from many of my South Sudanese friends that Juba is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, and they've seen what's been described as "chaotic" development since independence last summer.
As for me and Sanjay, we passed out right when we got to the hotel. After a 6-hour nap, we ate dinner at the hotel restaurant (which was really good!) and watched the Chelsea-Bayern soccer game. We left before it was over, and we only realized how amazingly it ended after we heard screams and cheering at midnight outside of our hotel room.
I'll be sure to take more pictures tomorrow!