South Sudan is a nation in deep crisis, with children particularly vulnerable. But now a group of children are helping to bring health and restoration to the country – through drama!
South Sudan now has more than 1m people living as refugees in neighbouring countries. A further 1.6 million people live in makeshift conditions within the country, having fled their permanent homes to escape violence.
The economy is collapsing, with inflation at over 700%, ongoing conflict, and failed harvests, with an outbreak of Cholera sweeping through parts of the country.
How did we get here?
The South Sudanese voted for independence from Sudan in 2011. However, having gained it, the country descended into a civil war just two years later. The war officially ended when a peace agreement was signed in late 2015, but violence between the warring parties continues across the country – the worst affected being the poorest and most vulnerable.
The UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, fears the crisis could worsen if the unrest continues: ‘I fear for the South Sudanese people, but for the wider region as well. The impact in terms of refugees, in terms of economic stability in the region, will be awful.’
Acting it out
Tearfund and our partners are working with communities in two locations in South Sudan to help alleviate the malnutrition crisis among children under five and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
Picture 1: School Hygiene Club drama session
It’s vital they get the nutrients they need, but also the protection from water-borne disease, which robs their bodies of these vital nutrients and exacerbates their malnutrition.
We’re helping provide communities with clean, accessible drinking water, and also teaching them how to protect themselves from the causes of these diseases.
A great success story has been the work of School Hygiene Clubs. Members of the club receive training on hygiene promotion and drama skills encouraging others to change their behaviour to protect themselves from disease and malnutrition.
They also act as pioneers maintaining the cleaning of the school compound and latrines to set good examples for the other students.
Picture 2: Getting ready for a drama session
Some students go to the markets and churches to do drama performances so that the general public can learn good hygiene practices.
Bayak Gai is a School Health Club captain at Werbek Primary School, Jonglei, and is proud of what is being done to promote hygiene awareness:
‘We are committed to help our classmates and community to practice personal hygiene – like handwashing at critical moments and the proper use of latrines – which are good for their health.’
So far the whole project has helped more than 3,000 students across four schools, and the hope is that it will grow and benefit many more.
Pray for peace to take hold and that leaders would be raised up who will prioritise the welfare of the people of South Sudan.
As the international community tries to work with the South Sudan government to find a way forward, pray that creative and workable solutions to the economic crisis would be found.
Pray for the continued success of the School Hygiene Clubs and their use of drama, teaching good and healthy living practices.