Holding on to hope
05 May 17
Fifteen-year-old Susanna Gelasivo is struggling to feed her nine-month-old baby, Ross Edward.
She lives in Enyif village which is almost deserted. People have fled due to war and hunger. The village near the town of Torit in South Sudan is now just a collection of charred roofless houses.
“We fled the fighting to the town but now have come back as the situation is a bit more calm. We had to go into the swampy part of the river to escape. It was raining heavily. It is not safe. Armed men launch surprise attacks and you have no chance,” she says. “We don’t know what will happen to us when we are in the bush but with God’s protection, everything is possible.”
Susanna, 15, with her baby Ross. Photo: Patrick Nicholson, Caritas.
For the last two seasons, the area did not get enough rain and the harvest was destroyed. Even now, it takes about an hour to reach the market.
She carries a heavy sack of charcoal on her head and baby on her back. Funds from selling the charcoal will feed her extended family for a day.
“We are just trying to get by until this season’s harvest,” Susanna says.
Currently one million people are in imminent danger of famine in South Sudan.
A total of 5.1 million are in urgent need of food and livelihood assistance. At least 270,000 children are suffering acute malnutrition.
Mary Wachira, Caritas Project Coordinator Kenya says “Just imagine for a minute, you go and turn on the tap and there’s not even a drop of water. It’s quite hard, you wake up in the morning and you don’t know when you’re going to get your next meal. You don’t know where you’re going to get water. So they’re surviving on wild foods. Those who can be able to go to the forest and they can bring them and eat and at least survive for that day so that is how they are. ”
We are just trying to get by until this season’s harvest.
Caritas Australia’s international network has a long-term presence in South Sudan. Strong relationships with partners such as Caritas South Sudan, HARD (Hope Agency for Relief and Development), Caritas Kenya and CADECOM Malawi provide a unique and deep reach into the most vulnerable and remote communities. It means that Caritas is there before, during and after the emergency.
“Simply because we work through the Catholic dioceses within their country. That’s why we are able to meet the very basic needs of the people at the grassroots level,” Mary Wachira says.
Caritas Australia is giving support through the provision of food items, such as beans, sugar, salt, oil and maize flour, as well as non-food items, clean water, sanitation and emergency supplies – but more is needed.
“We are very grateful for the support that the Australian public have given to the people of South Sudan so far and they are able to meet their very basic needs and they are able to live a life of dignity,” Mary says.