“Many years of war, change a society. Through the years, many people have had to flee to other countries, others have fled within the country. Many have lost their lives, some people they know, or everything they owned,” says Simon Namana, education coordinator for ADRA in South Sudan.
Simon has been a refugee himself and lived years in a refugee camp in Uganda, before returning to his homeland. Now he tells of long periods where parts of the country have been unavailable for emergency aid and social services. On top of this, people have struggled with hunger and disease outbreaks.
The peace agreement that came into force in February 2020 was to be the big turning point. Then came the corona, the ADRA education coordinator reports over the phone.
Ethnic cleansing and mass executions. Withholding food aid and man-made famine. Mobilization of child soldiers. Attacks on emergency workers. Relentless terrorism of the civilian population, including the widespread use of rape.
All this has been documented in South Sudan through recent years, in a civil war that started abruptly and brutally in 2013, only two years after the country gained its independence.
In reality, there has been unrest for so long that several generations have barely experienced anything but war, violence and famine. There is now a fragile peace in South Sudan.
“People are still uncertain about what the future will bring. Many have little hope, partly because we are hard hit by falling oil prices. This has reduced export revenues and increased the prices of food, so that many are struggling to make ends meet. Economic downturns are not promising for the peace process this time,” Namana says.
“This is why people follow developments closely, and every time the authorities are delayed in implementing elements of the peace agreement, it puts a dent in them. We are dependent on the international community together with the South Sudanese authorities for this to go well,” Namana says.
New hope - then came the pandemic
Thousands of South Sudanese have not only fled - they are simply gone, according to Human Rights Watch. Their loved ones can only assume that they are dead. Such unresolved issues naturally create a lot of concern and fear among people.
Following pressure from the international community, the main parties to the war nevertheless reached a fragile peace agreement in 2018. A new system of division of power in the country led to the civil war being declared ended in February 2020.
There were glimpses of hope. But April 5, the country reported the first case of Covid-19.
“From March 2020, there were closed schools and strict travel restrictions. Many companies and several organizations closed their offices. It immediately became more difficult to reach people with help,” Namana explains.
“Education is the key to development,” Namana says.
An educated South Sudanese is a South Sudanese who can support himself, use the knowledge, skills and environment in building a better life. Maybe someday a South Sudanese who becomes ill will not behave to go to one of the neighbouring countries for treatment.