The way out of poverty for communities in South Sudan has been hampered by local versions of global challenges. Close to a decade of civil war has led to prolonged political instability and insecurity, disrupting development. Climate shocks have crushed livelihoods.
The challenges here are immense. The way out of poverty has not always been swift or straightforward. But that’s exactly why Tearfund’s Christian partners ACROSS and Sudan Evangelical Mission are here: to carry the light of Jesus and work together to find a way when it’s hard to see one.
Meet some of the people who are helping to make a way out of poverty for communities in South Sudan through health care, education and peacebuilding.
Health worker Rebecca helps make a way for better health through a small clinic supported by ACROSS. Marshall, one of Tearfund’s project officers, recently travelled to South Sudan and met Rebecca at the clinic where she works. He says: “The challenges for this very basic, two-room facility were clear to see, however the community could also readily point to the life-saving treatment it is providing them. Over 5,000 people receive vital outpatient services each year – that includes antenatal care, critical immunisations for children and pregnant mothers, malnutrition screening, and treatment for malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory illness and sexually transmitted infections. Added to this are the more than 10,000 people who are reached annually through the clinic’s weekly mobile health outreach program.
“When I asked Rebecca how the presence of the clinic was important for her community, she proudly told a story about a pregnant woman who came to the clinic for antenatal care. She was malnourished and anaemic but was able to receive treatment as an outpatient. When the baby was due, Rebecca assisted with a safe delivery at the clinic (though most women still give birth at home, and Rebecca assists with these as well). Afterwards, when the mother had difficulties with her milk supply, the health workers at the clinic were able to help and support her through that too. The child has since been immunised through the clinic, and both mother and child are healthy and doing well. Rebecca and this clinic are at the front line of strengthening the health base of a community, which is a key part of building its resilience.”
Education can transform lives, and a more educated community can have greater resilience. Tearfund’s partner ACROSS supports “school mothers” like Martha, who champion education, especially for girls. In Martha’s community, parents often face economic pressure to arrange marriages for their daughters at a young age. If a girl misses school, Martha will visit the parents and encourage them to let her return. Although Martha didn’t go to school herself, she believes fiercely that girls should have an education – that when girls are educated it is good for the family in the long run, and good for the community.
John, a farmer, took part in training in peacebuilding with Tearfund’s partner Sudan Evangelical Mission. “I was trained to restore peace, and in mediation, reconciliation and forgiveness. This training equipped me with more skills in how to address social issues in my community. Through community dialogue I can see changes in my community … people begin to reconcile and listen to each other.”
Mary, a school student, has been trained by ACROSS to support other girls to stay at school. She says: “This year we have brought back four girls who had dropped out and 20 newly enrolled girls to the school as the results of the skills and knowledge we gained from the training. We have also helped two girls from our school who were about to be married off before finishing their studies. Apart from encouraging girls to complete their schooling, we also plant trees, compose educational songs and many other games that promote learning and girls’ education.”
John and Tabitha are community-hired primary school teachers who have been trained and supported by ACROSS. Government primary schools in South Sudan are provided with only one or two trained teachers. This is usually only a fraction of the teaching staff needed, so to bridge that gap communities hire young people like John and Tabitha, usually with some years of high schooling but with no formal teacher training.
John left his home area to finish high school but came back to his community to teach in the local school. He has completed in-service training with ACROSS and is now a senior teacher and is used by the government as a mentor to other teachers in the district, including Tabitha. Tabitha is one of only a handful of female teachers in the district, as many girls marry early and only a small percentage are able to continue their education beyond primary school level. Tabitha returned to her old primary school to teach after having children, and hopes to one day become a fully qualified teacher. For now she has been able to take up some short-term training with ACROSS, and continues to learn from John.
The work of Tearfund’s partners is evidence that the cycle of poverty can be broken. Give now to make a way when poverty says there isn’t one.
Tearfund Australia is thankful for the support of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), which co-funds the work of ACROSS with Tearfund.