Violence within a family in South Sudan

“Violence happens in every family (husband hits wife) but it usually is a problem of miscommunication, or the husband has been drinking.”
2015 started with a lot of traveling around South Sudan.  Only a few days after returning from Christmas break, I headed with my supervisor to Jonglei State.  Our first stop was to cross the river to Minkamen where we have been running two mobile clinics for IDPs (internally displace people) from the conflict that started in 2013.  We gathered some of the ‘clients’ from the two clinics (one reproductive health and the other general health) as ‘focus groups’ to ask them their views.  On what they liked about the clinics –“the care here is better than where we were at home”, “We appreciate how they treat us like family, and the care is good.  There is always medicine here and they do not make us pay”.  We also asked them about other topics – water source, when they would return to their homes (“why would we return to a place we suffered so much until we are sure it is safe?”) and about gender based violence.  That topic inspired a lively discussion.  Yes it happens, no we do not report it unless we are seeking a divorce, it is a part of life.  “This is normal in our culture – our family and friends protect us.  But here in the IDP camp there is no one.”   “In the village if I need help (due to violence), I can call out and my family or in-laws will come.  No one will come if I call out in the night in this place (IDP camp).”  Sometimes the horrors of life become so common that they are accepted as normal!
The next morning we traveled to Panyigor in Twic East County, stopping at several clinics along the way.   No ‘road trip’ in South Sudan is complete without at least one flat tire and our trip was no exception.  We were fortunate that our vehicles at least had good spares.  From Panyigor we traveled on to Poktop in Duk County to visit a clinic run by Sudan Medical Care and a nutrition site operated by John Dau Foundation, both under our office.  This was m y first opportunity to visit one of the nutrition sites and it is amazing what these people are doing in such remote areas.  Children with both moderate and severe malnutrition and pregnant/lactating women who are malnourished are identified by measuring the mid upper arm circumference (MUAC) and treated according.   Mid upper arm circumference is used as it is a simple measurement and the first signs of wasting are seen in the arm.
This allows for early identification of moderate malnutrition.  The earlier treatment is started, the faster they can recover, as the child in this picture has done.
On our way back to Panyigor, we were able to stop at a large cattle camp.  This is a completely different cultural side of South Sudan that I had not yet been able to experience.  People move with their cattle, setting up “camps” near water and grazing areas. They take the cattle out grazing each morning and return in the evening.  When the supply is depleted, they move to another area.  This was quite a large camp (hundreds and hundreds of cattle) and as it was beginning to get dark, we were not able to walk through the whole camp.  They were surprised to find that the “kawaja” (white foreigner) could at least greet them in their local language.
A couple of weeks later, I returned to Poktop to bring a truckload of supplies for both SMC and JDF.
In February I was able to take my friend visiting from USA to Pibor.  We were able to worship with the local congregation there, I got to meet many old friends and we were able to work with the Trinity Medical Team for a few days.  Two of my friends met us at the airport.  One of them immediately noticed I was not wearing my Murle necklace (I forgot it).  Sunday morning in church I was given another one.   The generosity of these people is amazing.   Flight schedules did not permit us to stay for the full week of the camp, but I enjoyed being there, meeting women at the water pump morning and evening, trying to speak Murle again, and during the day, acting as the pharmacist for the team.  The men and women who come to Pibor to serve during this week live as though they are on a ‘wilderness camping trip’ and do an excellent job of being ‘hands and feet of Christ’, showing His love to Murle people.
I pray that someday you will understand the impact your prayers and gifts have on the lives of the people of South Sudan and how you touch so many people.  Thank you for the blessing you are to me and to them.
In Christ,     Nanc