Michele Bertelli & Javier Sauras for Aljazeera
The dull thud of a coconut being thrown against a flat stone summons the children around the low straw-thatched mud tukul, a traditional round house in eastern Africa. Nadia* pulls the orange pulp out of the fruit where the rind has cracked, breaking it up among many tiny hands.
"One person was shot dead in front of me, so I had to jump over his body," she says, describing her escape from the town of Ikotos, in the Imatong state of South Sudan.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than 3.5 million have been displaced since South Sudan descended into war shortly after it seceded from Sudan in 2011. Starting in December 2013, President Salva Kiir's troops have clashed with those of rebel leader and former Vice President Riek Machar. A peace accord signed in August 2015 fell apart after less than three months.
Women and children have paid a particularly heavy price in the fighting with over two million children displaced and reports of ethnic cleansing and rape perpetrated by all sides in the conflict. And while the men fight, many women are left behind to carry the day-to-day burden of caring for their families.
This was not the first time Nadia had seen someone shot dead, but this time was different because she was on her own with her children.
Nadia is a single mother. Her youngest is six years old and both he and his two older brothers depend solely on her. Of their father, she says "he is not here," without further explanation.
In July 2016, when the rebel forces and the government army clashed in Ikotos, Nadia was working as a cleaner at a government office. "When a group of youths attacked the barracks, we shut ourselves into our house," she says. But an hour later, with the fighting becoming more intense, she left everything behind as she fled with her children.
They travelled for three days, hiding in the bush and surviving on grass and wild fruit, as they made their way to the village of Chahari in Eastern Equatoria state where her relatives lived.
The state was once considered a safe and fertile area of South Sudan. But, after the peace agreement failed, the fighting reached some cities in Eastern Equatoria as well. Two million people are internally displaced in South Sudan. Nadia is hoping to find a relatively peaceful life in this remote, rural area, far from the fighting engulfing the cities and larger towns.
Still, providing her children with enough food to eat is a struggle. A famine fuelled by drought and fighting has ravaged the region for four years.
Women digging in the fields, fetching water or picking wild fruit from trees are a familiar sight in these villages, while the men are away grazing livestock or fighting on the front line.
Most men here take more than one wife.
Maria Gaudenzi, area team leader for the AVSI Foundation, explains that often the men "are unable to take care of these nuclei, so all the responsibilities fall completely on their wives". The Italian non-governmental organisation (NGO) is the only active international NGO in this area. It has been running schooling, healthcare and food security programmes in partnership with the World Food Programme and UNICEF since 2005.
With husbands absent, women live by their wits, farming, caregiving, and working on side businesses to generate more income. Away from the frontline of the conflict, they are the ones upholding the country.
By Paul Dennis for ugchristiannews.com
The number of orphans and otherwise parentless minors (aged between four and 17 years) in settlement centres including that of Palabek Ogili, Palabek Kal and Palabek Gem, all in Lamwo District, northern Uganda reached 2,000, an officer at the Association of Volunteers International Services (AVSI) told journalists recently.
Christian Communications Centre (CCC), a local non-governmental organisation has earmarked Shs350m to support children with special needs in the settlements above.
The organisation’s spokesman and project coordinator, Dr Francis Ogweng, told press a survey they did a week ago indicated that thousands of refugee children suffer without anyone to cater for their wellbeing or provide the required necessities in life.
“A shipment of eight containers is already on the way and we are just waiting for clearance from the OPM,” he explained, adding that solar lamps, beddings, cups, soap, clothing are among the items to be distributed.
According to UNICEF and UNHCR, the trauma, physical upheaval, fear and stress experienced by so many of these children account for just part of toll the crisis is exacting.
“That is why we are moving in to support them,” Dr Ogweng said.
Sources report that initially, these children were being given to foster parents to take care of them, but some parents have instead abandoned them.
“We are also in touch with some people back home in South Sudan who could be having information about these children,” Palabek Refugee Settlement commander, Mr David Wangwe said.
Elsewhere, the Palabek Ogili Sub-countychairperson, Mr Christopher Omal, told sources on Wednesday that the issue of unaccompanied children needs to be addressed immediately since they are now stealing food stuffs from the community farmlands.
UNHCR reported in May that inside South Sudan, more than 1,000 children have been killed or injured since fresh conflict erupted in 2013, while an estimated 1.14 million children have been internally displaced.
Published by The Catholic Spirit from Catholic News Service
In the aftermath of two earthquakes in the span of two weeks in Mexico church-based relief agencies have been on the ground providing food, shelter and repairs.
The magnitude 7.1 quake that hit near Mexico City Sept. 19 killed more than 230 people and injured more than 2,000 in the crumbling wreckage. The earthquake was just on the heels of the magnitude 8.1 earthquake Sept. 7 off the coast of south-eastern Mexico that killed at least 90 people and destroyed thousands of homes.
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