Rebuilding Lives in South Sudan
March 13, 2009—Teresa Juan spent 20 years as a refugee in Uganda, fleeing the civil conflict that wreaked havoc across southern Sudan for more than two decades, leaving more than one and a half million people dead. After the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, refugees began feeling safe enough to go back to their native land. Now in her mid-fifties, Teresa recently returned to her country with her husband and eight children. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) was there -- providing the tools Teresa needed to help her family make a fresh start.
Jobs, Water and Education
While Teresa felt safe for the first time in years, life remained difficult for Teresa and her family after returning to their village. Teresa, like countless other women across south Sudan, bears the heaviest cost of the legacy of war. Life as a refugee took a devastating physical toll on her husband, who can no longer work to sustain their family. Now, in addition to caring for her family and shouldering the burden of household chores, Teresa must find work to support her husband and children. While employment opportunities for women abound, most women lack the skills, tools, and capital to take advantage of those opportunities. UMCOR trains women in activities such as tailoring, vegetable gardening, catering, marketing and establishing small businesses.
Before UMCOR constructed a well in Teresa's village, Teresa's family relied on untreated water from a distant stream. "My family suffered greatly from drinking contaminated water," Teresa recalled. Like many other families without access to clean water, Teresa's family experienced diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and other side effects of waterborne illness. Not only did Teresa have to care for her often sick family, she had to walk 20 miles a day to gather the contaminated water. Now Teresa's water gathering activities can be measured in minutes rather than hours, allowing her to invest time in economic projects.
In that past, Teresa's children had few learning opportunities. Classes had been held under a tree large enough to provide shade from the hot sun but offered no protection from the rain. Schools canceled classes at the first sign of dark clouds. Primary school children now attend UMCOR constructed schools in Mankaro and Kenyi.
About UMCOR South Sudan
In countless villages across south Sudan the only education children have comes in the form of sporadic lessons under trees. Families still endure illness from contaminated water. Women continue to labor to provide sustenance and care to their families. UMCOR continues to work, village by village, to improve conditions for the people of south Sudan.
UMCOR began working in Sudan in February 2005 after assessment teams determined that UMCOR's experience could add to the humanitarian effort to alleviate suffering in South Darfur. Initial programs focused on providing essential non-food items to displaced people living in camps. UMCOR Sudan has since expanded its programs to include education, agriculture, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) projects. A second office was opened in South Sudan, a region with low levels of infrastructure and high levels of need. Programs in South Sudan focus on reintegration of the population by providing water and sanitation programs and school reconstruction after years of war.