I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our supporters and members of Athiolget Women’s and Children’s Health Association Inc. for all your support and prayers for my safe trip to South Sudan.
On the 13th of December 2015 I left Perth, Western Australia for South Sudan. I landed in Juba, South Sudan on 14th December where I spent twelve days. I was warmly welcomed with big gathering by the family members and many other South Sudanese. It was a great privilege for me when I addressed the community members about the main aims of my visit, and how it was an exciting time to be back in South Sudan for the first time since leaving for refuge in Ethiopia in 1987 due to civil war between South Sudan and the Islamic Khartoum government. In Juba, I had meetings to inform the community on building a clinic in Akot Village as Athiolget Women’s and Children Health Association Inc. main first goal. The community applauded the idea and were very happy to help in coordinating and sharing ideas on how to build the clinic.
Our Trip to Ruweng State
On the 24th of December, Mr Monyjok Mayiik, a graduate from the University of Nairobi and I attempted to leave for Panrieng, the capital of newly created Ruweng State. However, that did not happen as the only cargo flight to the area was overbooked and was running behind schedule. Therefore, I spent Christmas in Juba and we were able to fly to Yida Refugee Camp Airstrip, Ruweng State on the 26th of December 2015. We than hired a car to Panrieng town where I spent three days. It was a short trip between Yida Airstrip to Panrieng but availability of commercial transport and high costs are a huge problems in the new state.
During my three day stay in Panrieng, we had two meetings with the community members especially those from Akot and surrounding areas regarding my trip was aim at building a clinic in the area. The meetings were aimed at mobilising human resources in the town where some educated individuals, health workers and other skilled persons live.
Akot is remote and takes about 10 hours of walking or 1 hour drive from Panrieng town and has no health facilities, schools or roads linking it to other areas. There are no commercial transports to the area all year round. The area is cut off completely during rainy season as walking is limited by insecurity, wild animals, water swamps and basically takes longer to reach Panrieng town than walking during the dry season. This is a great challenge for those with employable skills to migrate to the area as only farmers mostly women are found.
We had to prepare for the transport, food and water to take to Akot village as access to clean drinking water, shops or doctor/nurse is very difficult or unavailable. Athiolget Women’s and Children’s Health Association Inc. members in Australia provided funding and I had over $650 medications including pain relief, antimalarial, antibiotics, antidiarrheal, conjunctivitis eye ointment, schistosomiasis and deworming tablets and rehydration salts from Australia. They also raised funds for the construction of Akot Medical Clinic with local available materials such as grass on the roof, mud for wall and tree poles or twigs for the frame.
I also had a collection of clothing from my family and others in Australia to take to the village and we did a bit of food shopping to assist us and those at the village for that short period I was there.
The meeting with the members in Panrieng town was successful and many suggestions were made regarding the clinic construction. These included hiring young men to cut poles for the roof and wall frames, arranging their transportation deep from the forests and organising a catering team during the clinic construction phase. The final meeting in Panrieng town was geared towards the 3 arrangement of land allocation for the clinic in Akot. This decision was left to the Akot community members to discuss as they would choose a suitable land for the clinic.
Our Trip to Akot Village
Mr Bith Kuol, a former administrative officer of Akot and surrounding areas and his wife volunteered to go to Akot with me for the establishment of the clinic. The two are important members and residents of Akot Village and were willing to help their community in any way the can.
As mentioned earlier, there are no commercial transport services to Akot and surrounding villages as there are no roads, insecurity plus lack of commercial activities in the areas. Hence, Bith contacted the local officers in Panrieng to organise our transport to Akot using a government vehicle. South Sudan has had fuel shortage crises since the war started in December 2013 and Ruweng State in particular is crippled by lack of fuel although oil wells in the area flow day and night to Sudan pipelines. The commissioner accepted our request to use the vehicle and we paid SSP 700 for fuel alone. This was about US$50 per gallon or jerry cane.
After filling the car with fuel, we left for Akot village on Tuesday 29th December, 2015 at 1:30 PM instead of 8:00 AM as promised as the commissioner’s driver was busy transporting people and goods to other villages. We loaded our bags and boarded with other passengers who were previously living in Akot Village but now live in different village due to 2013 South Sudan civil war.
They were dropped to Akoldunga village on our way to Akot village. We arrived in Akot at 2:45pm where we were warmly greeted with big hugs and smiles from everyone.
People in Akot village were filled with joy and happiness and were so excited to see me and the other team members from Panrieng town. It was an amazing opportunity to be there for the first time in Akot village as well as Panrieng County in general.
On the 30th of December, I met some of the community members and had a long chat with them regarding life in the West and life in South Sudan as well particularly the hardships of life in the village. I explained to them the reason why I had come from Australia. First and foremost, was to come and see them since we never met before. Secondly, to evaluate what the needs are in regard to the construction of the clinic in the village and thirdly, to find solutions to the problem of drinking dirty water from the pond or reservoirs.
Many of the elderly women who live in that village communicated their grievances especially pointing out the failure of South Sudan government in improving their lives in their village and other communities that live around Ruweng County. They lack basic needs, such as clean drinking water, hospitals or clinics, schools, roads, businesses and many more. People in rural and remote communities travel hundreds of kilometres to towns for treatment either for themselves, their children or their elderly parents. It is very risky and dangerous at night when the re is an emergency. Usually young men carry the sick on their shoulders from Akot village to Panrieng town which takes 10-12 hours on dirt trails. More chilling still is the fact that one would never know what will come across at night time, due to insecurity, carnivorous animals such as hyenas and lions on the way.
Many villages have left to look for treatments in towns and while they are in there, they leave behind children, farms, livestock and other responsibilities which need them. It is very a hard life these villagers are experiencing
Meeting on Clinic Construction in Akot
Everyone in the village was invited to the second meeting that was aimed at brainstorming on the construction of the clinic in the area. It was focused on responsibility assignments; that is who can do or contribute what towards its completion. The time to complete the construction was also set as end of April 2016 which would ensure everyone runs on schedule. Six young men were willing to take the hard work especially bringing poles for the frame. These include Chol Michar Kon, Dau Badier, Awan Amuor, Monytuor Michar Kon, Kong Thonjok Kur and Goyok Mijak Min. Older men were asked to make tying robes from local type of grass while women and girls were asked to roofing grass, fetching water and catering.
The elderly men also allocated land for the clinic and they agreed on using the land of late Wal Michar Kon with the permission from his sons. Another elderly man named Miaker Ajang will clinic guard from domestic animals and also maintaining its structure and planting more trees. The meeting went on for two days and was successfully concluded on Friday 2nd January 2016.
On Saturday the 3rd January 2016, the community members were gathered at the allocated land to lay the clinic foundation.
The meetings were successful and some of the elderly men offered contributing cows or the little money they had to support clinic project. The community decided not to take on board the suggestions that were made in Panrieng meeting regarding hiring people to construct the clinic for them from start to finish but came up with the idea of doing everything by themselves. However they took on board the suggestion for hiring someone to transport wood poles from the forest and Kong Thonjok Kur was contacted to facilitate transport. Hence they will hire his truck to bring home the trees since it would be very difficult for the young men to carry them at once.
Welcoming Party at Akot
The family and community members organised a warm and wonderful welcoming ceremony for me and my team in Akot village. It was a proud moment that we had at the village with blessing and encouraging words pouring out from our elderly fathers and mothers. At the same time it was so emotional seeing them go through such a hard life but continue to be very determine and courageous no matter what life brought. I have seen and was told how hard life is in Akot village. It is a life of isolation from the rest of the world, no access to clean drinking water, health services and educational opportunities. People sleep in their traditional huts with no proper doors and there are no mosquito nets due to lack of access to shops and expensive costs. People use mat to sleep on it, no mattresses unless in towns but with money, otherwise one may still not have proper sleeping stuff if no employment or someone to support them. It is a very hard life which left someone like me speechless sometime. During the final gathering at the clinic compound, medications were given out to those that were unwell. I was traveling with some medications for the start of the clinic from Australia, all appreciated the work done by Athiolget team members.
Since our aim is to provide lifesaving medicines to remote villagers and farming communities in South Sudan. Here are some of the photos that show hardships of a village life in South Sudan especially more so to vulnerable women and their children. The only drinking water point in the village where more than 2000 people l ive.
If you would like to help Athiolget Women’s and Children’s Health Association in our fight to save the lives of these vulnerable women and their children who needlessly die from preventable and neglected diseases in South Sudan, please donate to the organisation as follows:
For any questions or suggestions, please contact Guor Michar or myself: Abok K Dau as follow:
Mr Guor M Michar
Telephone: 08 99220169 or Mobile: 0469909795 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mrs Abok K Dau
Telephone: 08 99220169
Mobile: 0470348956: E: email@example.com