Children’s stories from South Sudan

 

What is life like in a rural village in South Sudan? Unicef spoke to children and women in Kiech Kuon, a remote village, to hear their stories, to learn about their lives and to find out about their hopes for the future. These are South Sudan’s everyday voices:

1. Nyibol Jul, age 14 (pictured above)

“I have seen many of these small aeroplanes that come and land on the airstrip here where I live in the village of Kiech Kuon in Upper Nile State and they bring people from far away who come to help us, doctors and nurses and so on. Because of this I want to be a pilot of one of those planes taking people all around South Sudan to help. There are no roads here so it seems to me that being a pilot can really be a very great way for me to help my countrymen and countrywomen.”

2. Nyagach Ngot, age 15

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“Life here in Kiech Kon is hard, especially now because of the war. We can’t move around anywhere. Of course there is the need here for education and for hospitals with doctors but also we need some other things, mostly I would say a cellphone network. We are very isolated in my village because there is no power and no way to communicate. I have relatives and friends living in Khartoum, in Ethiopia and in Kenya; but I have no way to see if they are OK. In fact I am telling you they are in those countries but it’s been so long since I spoke to them that I cannot be sure. They could be anywhere.”

3. Nyatuoch Wie, age 15 

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“We used to be in school in another village that’s about two hours away from here but because of the war that school was closed and we had to come here to Kiech Kon. It’s OK. It’s a bit boring but at least we are all together and the family is here too. We have been registering with the United Nations here for food drops and vaccines and health education. These are things that no one else is now offering to us. When I think of the future I think that I would want to be a nurse or a doctor because I want to help people. Here there are so few health professionals there is a great need. Even before the war, which has made things very hard, it was difficult. Where I live now there are no medicines even. No-one can find help if they have malaria or their birth is difficult or their child is sick.”

4. Nyaluak Wie, age 14 

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“If my family finds any money or makes the painful decision to sell a goat or a cow to get money, then we have to walk to the nearest town where there is a market in order to use the money to buy maize flour or sorghum or cooking oil. There is none of that in Kiech Kuon, which is the village where I live. Instead we walk three days each way to Mathiang. Yes, three days – we sleep on the way, just lying down underneath a tree trying to avoid the rain if it comes. There are snakes and there is so much mud and swampy water. We have to do this because today there is no other way for us to get food for our families.”

5. Nyibol Chok, age 13

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“We used to go to school in another place two hours away by foot but it was closed when the crisis started in December 2013. Since then we have lived in this village of Kiech Kuon where we are safe. We need education. Already we have missed almost a year of schooling. That is not right for us. But let me add we also need quality education with qualified teachers, not someone who has barely finished Grade 1 and is trying to teach us. I want to be a doctor and work in the hospital to help people. There is a great need for doctors in South Sudan. Here in Kiech Kon there used to be a doctor but now because of the war he has no supplies and no equipment and he cannot really help any more.”

6. Nyapith Roaw, age 14

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“I want to be a doctor, there are many people here who need help. But I am concerned that in fact I could end up becoming married at a young age. If you are married here, then your daily life is only walking far to find water, or walking very far to find sorghum from the market that is some days from the village here at Kiech Kuon in Upper Nile State. It is hard to defy the requirements of your family in terms of getting married. Because there is no school due to the war, many young girls face early marriage. Their families are poor because of the crisis, and they are unable to resist the offer of a dowry. It means that women are not able to complete their promise. Instead, they are walking far everyday just to find water or to buy sorghum in the market. This is not the future that my friends and I want.”

7. Victoria Kiko, Senior Warehouse Assistant, Unicef South Sudan 

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“I suppose it is a bit different that I am a woman working on the logistics side of things here in Juba, it is a job more usually done by men. But I enjoy what I do – I’m helping to manage our stores here on the outskirts of the capital. Supplies come by ship to Mombasa in Kenya, then by road all the way through Kenya and Uganda and South Sudan, to here. That’s something like 2,000km and it takes around a week. Then because of the very poor roads here, it can take another week or two for the supplies to be driven the last 300km or 400km to where they are needed. South Sudan really needs help at the moment. I’m proud to be a part of the team that is giving some of that help.”

8. Nyadieng Puol, Infant and Young Child Feeding Counsellor, Kiech Kuon

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“Unicef came here this week to join with WFP to give people food and health services, here in Kiech Kuon village in Upper Nile State, where there has been no help from anyone for more than nine months. I am in charge of talking to mothers about the best way to feed their babies. Sometimes people here don’t automatically breastfeed their children exclusively for the first six months. That is what we encourage, it can really help children to survive during these times of crisis when there is no food and things are really difficult for all mothers.”