Arriving just days after South Sudan’s independence last year, Philip Okanya Aurugai says he has seen a flowering of enthusiasm and activity in the nation. But, as he tells RedAlert, a lack of infrastructure and a weak currency are making it hard for the world’s newest nation to get out of the starting blocks.
I’m based in Juba, but as the Deputy Head of Operations of Save the Children, I also support our field locations. We have about 14 bases out in the field covering the whole country.
We work in education, training and health provision. At the moment we are busiest in Jonglei and Unity states. There are many refugees who have been sent out of Sudan, and who are now crossing the border into South Sudan - but there are no resources for them. So, we have gone to provide assistance at newly set up camps, where the refugees are now being looked after.
The refugees cannot go back, nor can they go further south, because the rainy season started two months ago, and we are deep into it now. The heavy rains and seasonal rivers make the roads impassable.
Transportation is always a challenge here. Because of the rains, a place like Akobo in South Sudan’s biggest state, Jonglei, is not accessible for almost eight months of the year!
There’s been a lot of change since independence. Of course, there’s a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of construction taking place, a lot of investment. We had about 100 suppliers on our list, now we have 230. But what has got worse is the price of commodities, which has skyrocketed. Not just food, but other items too.
What we have tried to do is link with other NGOs and combine efforts. For example, recently, a number of agencies clubbed together to hire a boat to transport vehicles to Maban in Upper Nile State.
It would have been very expensive to for us to do this by ourselves but, by cooperating with others, we are able to achieve better results for the people of South Sudan.
Photos: © UN Photo/Staton Winter