Bringing a Brighter Future to South Sudan
PROVIDING HEALTH, EDUCATION, LIVELHOODS AND PARTNERSHIPS
South Sudan faces many challenges. The key to the future is to empower its people with the tools they need to become self-reliant so they can build a brighter future for their children. These tools include quality health, education for all children with an emphasis for including girls, promote livelihoods or life-skills so people can provide for their families, and encourage partnerships that will assist us in our mission.
Our Story begins with the LOST BOYS of Sudan
When civil war broke out in the country of Sudan in 1987, approximately 35,000 young boys were forced to flee their home villages. Many were as young as six years old when their villages were burned and their families were killed by northern soldiers. Boys from all over Sudan fled. Some to the east to Ethiopia and some went south. They faced many challenges. They became known as the Lost Boys of Sudan. Wild animals attacked them, they lacked food and water, and soldiers were constantly hunting them down. After walking thousands of miles, only half of the boys survived. Most found temporary refuge in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. Some 3,8oo found permanent, stable homes in the United States, Canada, and Australia.
One of those boys was Jacob Atem. In 2001 after spending about ten years in the refugee camp, he was relocated to the United States. He overcame many obstacles and went on to graduate from high school and eventually received his Ph.D. in Environmental and Global Health from the University of Florida in 2017. Then he got a postdoctoral in the Center for Humanitarian Health at the John Hopkins University.
He also co-founded the Southern Sudan Healthcare Organization (SSHCO), a nonprofit working within his war-torn homeland. He built a clinic in his hometown of Maar, South Sudan. In 2020 massive floods forced his people to a displacement camp. His organization was one of the first to set up a mobile clinic to provide medical help for the 100,000 displaced people.
H.E.L.P. for the Lost Boys
Health, Education, Livelihoods & Partnerships
Bringing HEALTH to the people of South Sudan has been a top priority for the Lost Boys. Maternal mortality rate in South Sudan is one of the highest in the world. Pregnant South Sudanese women face a risk of death as high as one in seven. South Sudan is one of the most challenging countries in the world for a child- UNICEF (2021) Child mortality rate of 96 deaths per 1,000 live births. Around 75 per cent of all child deaths are due to preventable diseases, such a diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia. Southern Sudan Healthcare Organization (SSHCO) is providing medical help in Maar and the displacement camp in Mongalla.
The literacy rate in South Sudan is below 30 percent. Seventy-two percent of the children drop out of school before finishing the primary grades. Parents don't believe girls should go to school and many girls marry early. With this kind of history, working to improve the education for children is a top priority. With the floods of 2020-2021 most children were not able to go to school. The families we are working with are in a displacement camp with 100,000 and the only form of education is 'under the tree' when weather permits. Our goal is to provide a school that can be a model for others to follow. Providing training for teachers and the needed instructional materials in a building that will provide a safe and secure place to learn, are our first priorities.
South Sudan has had decades of food insecurity because of constant violence, droughts, and flooding. Agricultural training is key to helping the people learn how to provide food for themselves. In 2018, I had an agricultural expert do training in the remote village of Piol. He has partnered with SSHCO in writing grants to receive seeds from Seed Programs International. In 2021 he went to the displacement camp to train people in growing gardens so that they would have a source of food and livelihood that can help them pay for the needs of their family. We have plans to have a school garden where students will maintain the plants and receive training in growing vegetables.
The African proverb 'Unity is strength, division is weakness', reminds us that working together there is strength. This is why partnerships are key to solving challenging problems that confront the young country of South Sudan. This would include working together with local chiefs, community leaders and other non-government organizations working to solve similar challenges. SSHCO works with the Ministry of Health and the Health Cluster by reporting the medical data that helps to target where there are needs. Working with the Ministry of Education, we are able to provide teachers in our IDP camp with curriculum that is aligned with the national standards.