Mercy Corps helps families in South Sudan access water and sanitation amidst the ongoing conflict
In Bentiu, South Sudan, weary families walk the long dirt road from the town toward the entrance gates of the U.N. compound that has become an improvised displacement site, carrying children, firewood, food, mattresses and anything else they have been able to buy or salvage on their journey.
More than 120,000 people are seeking refuge here from the violence that has engulfed towns and villages throughout South Sudan, a consequence of the civil war that has plagued the country since December 2013, and displaced more than two million people.
Desperate families often walk for weeks to reach the site and the site’s population has more than doubled in the last year. Water and sanitation infrastructure can’t meet the demands of the growing number of residents.
Areas of dirty, stagnant water are common, and plastic tents offer little protection from the hot, dry winters and stormy summers. The risk of contracting cholera, hepatitis and malaria is tremendous; the World Health Organisation calls the crisis in South Sudan one of the worst health emergencies in the world.
Mercy Corps, which works in more than 40 countries around the world on some of the toughest challenges, is improving the site’s water and sanitation facilities building latrines, water points and handwashing stations, and leading rubbish collections.
In addition, Mercy Corps has put in place a hygiene promotion programme which promotes best hygiene practices that people should use to protect themselves from disease. We hire residents to become hygiene promoters and train them to organise information sharing sessions — proper handwashing, latrine use, water storage, childcare practices — for other residents. The hygiene promoters also conduct follow-up, door-to-door visits with residents to discuss home sanitation and personal hygiene.
Families in this region are in a constant state of uncertainty — and they have been for two years. And the ongoing volatility and extreme safety concerns continue to force civilians to safer — but also crowded and insufficient — spaces like the Bentiu displacement site.
The residents of the camp have left everything behind aside from what they have been able to carry on their backs, and they are uncertain of when they will be able to return to their former way of life.
Until families return home for good, water, hygiene and sanitation services must be implemented and improved to ensure the health and dignity of these already at-risk populations.
The funds raised by you will help Mercy Corps support people all over the world who are struggling to cope amidst conflict, disaster or crisis, just like in South Sudan. On behalf of the families that your fundraising will support, THANK YOU.
“The children on this island are no longer hungry, Mary’s Meals has seen to that.” Isolated by water, the people of Likoma Island work hard to transport Mary’s Meals across the lake for their children.
Likoma Island is a beautiful island which lies in the northeastern part of Lake Malawi. Although the island is just a few kilometers from Mozambique, and are entirely surrounded by Mozambican territorial waters, it is an enclave of Malawi.
The remote island is cut off from the rest of Malawi, and is only accessible via an old boat called the Llala which has been sailing to the island since the 1960s. It isn’t all that reliable, with the boat often breaking down limiting travel to the island. Sailing can take over seven hours, the water is often dangerous and choppy, but that won’t stop Mary’s Meals providing meals to over 3,000 children on Likoma.
When the bags of maize finally arrive, local volunteers wade into the water and quickly distribute the bags, ready to make the long walk to the village. Without this willing community, Mary’s Meals simply wouldn’t be able to provide porridge in the schools on the island. Geofrey Tamayenda, Mary’s Meals Malawi Regional Manager says, “They come every month to collect the food. They wade through the water in their clothes and then walk for miles to the deliver the food to each school because there are hardly any cars on the island.”
Despite the heat, plenty of volunteers turn up and carry two 20kg bags each to the schools, it is a long and arduous walk but spirits are always high. One volunteer said, “Before Mary’s Meals came to Likoma, children were dropping out of school because they were hungry. Now our children are healthy and happy. We want to be part of making them grow up to be successful.”
It is about an hour’s walk to the first school, where the volunteers are greeted by lots of excitable children. A 12-year-old girl raises her hand, “I don’t have any breakfast before I come to school,” she announces, “Before Mary’s Meals came I was dropping out from classes because I was too hungry, now I look forward to coming because I love the porridge.”
Mayamixo Nahosi, a 14 year old from Likoma, said “I think it’s very important for the community because the parents can send their children to school without any challenges. The children want to go to school. I, for example, don’t ever miss school any more, and I see my classmates here every day. Also, the parents don’t have to wonder about how to feed the children.”
It is thanks to your fundraising, that we are able to feed over 770,000 children in Malawi. Mary’s Meals is now reaching over One Million children globally with a daily meal at school in some of the world’s poorest communities, where hunger and poverty prevent children from gaining an education. On behalf of all the children receiving Mary’s Meals, thank you.