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Independence day

On 9 July, the people of South Sudan celebrated their independence. They have been waiting for this day for over 20 years.

I asked my friend Dan Deng, who lives in Nyamlel, “What will happen on 9 July?” He said, “I will finally hand over my gun.” “Really?” I replied. “You will just give it up?” “Yes, if there is actual peace, I will give it to the government.”

Birth of a nation

The entire community came out to sing, chant, cheer and dance to welcome the long-awaited birth of their new nation. 

In Northern Bahr El Ghazal, right on the border with the Republic of Sudan, the excitement is palpable. Over the past few weeks, marching bands rehearsed the new national anthem and brightly coloured new flags waved high over a dramatic landscape of tall green grasses and tukul huts.

Hunger gap

However, these celebrations are marred by the threat of heavy annual rain in July. The floods bring worries about a “hunger gap” – the time between harvests when many families will struggle to feed themselves. Due to this lack of food, thousands of children are forced to survive on a single bowl of porridge per day. 

This problem is growing worse due to the huge influx of people from the Republic of Sudan. The arrival of these people is increasing the population by an estimated 20% and stretching the limited resources of the new country.

Helping communities

We are working to help communities in Aweil West prevent this problem before it starts. We are equipping outreach workers with tools to weigh children and treat malnutrition in the early stages. 

During the rains, we’re planning to focus on maternal health. We will operate 11 facilities that will reach 6,400 women seeking antenatal and post-natal services as well as 13,000 children aged under two years. We are also fostering relationships with the health department to ensure people can access quality health services. 

Taking the first step

Through this process of community engagement, the people of Aweil West are beginning to deal with the problem of malnutrition in their villages.  This is a necessary first step for the newly-formed country.