South Sudan turned 10 years old as a nation this summer. Congratulations to the youngest nation on earth! By comparison, the U.S. is 245 years old, and China is approximately 5,000 years old.
Just as the U.S. struggled in its infant statehood in the late 1700’s, so now South Sudan is fighting through the growing pains of learning to work together. Since 2011, the South Sudanese people have been whiplashed by the early throes of nationhood: hope and let-downs, freedom and confusion, exhilaration and disillusionment, pride and humiliation.
In spite of a flood of disappointments, hope floats among young people.
Many want to break from the old guard of warlord tribal mentality. Instead, by cooperating across tribal boundaries they will further education, health, and economic development.
When I visited South Sudan over a year ago, I saw humble, self-sacrificing South Sudanese medical professionals using the minimal tools they were given to heal the sick and value each patient with kindness and gentleness.
The South Sudanese were a joy to befriend. The nurse practitioner and others in the clinic were professional and unreservedly welcoming not just to me but to patients from all tribes in the area. The clinic and staff were a mix of local tribes serving as a cohesive unit. I was impressed, especially considering South Sudan’s divisive history.
I was connected to this unique clinic through a respected partner organization. This clinic will likely be the base for community health education and development.
As of yet, there are still unknowns regarding what the programs will look like. Much like the nation itself is in its beginning stages, the clinic doctor and I are still in the early brainstorming phase of assessment.
We’ve discussed a community health program that is grassroots-oriented. Each village and community chooses their own health areas in which they want improvement and their own members to be trained. This method results in embedded local ownership and greater sustainability. Even the type of instructional materials and methods will be influenced by the communities.
I am excited to see how this new project will come to life.
There are undeniable challenges, such as. . .
- lack of public safety
- lack of local income
- lack of effective internet
- lack of schools and vocational training
- lack of rain for crops
- famine-like conditions with only one meal per day
- 30+ local languages (even the villages we are considering span 4 to 5 languages)
But there are also hopeful possibilities. . .
- job creation
- improved nutrition
- empowered people
- changed futures
I continue to prepare for possible projects and to network with South Sudanese contacts. Constantly I remind myself to be patient because this type of start-up process is extremely slow. Yet, the long-term results are enduring.
About the Author: Christine is an IDEAS Associate and community health professional in multiple overseas locations, working among refugee communities. Enjoy other blogs by Christine, such as "Bag of Photographs."