By Faye Callaghan in Juba
Latio Kudus Clement stands by a large, framed photo dating back 15 years. “This wasn’t the war; it was a first aid training simulation. But it was very real. We were in the UN compound, tyres were burning to make smoke and drums were beating to sounds like gunfire,” he says.
Now the disaster management preparedness programme manager for the newly established South Sudan Red Cross, he looks back with fond memories. “There were 30 of us that day, all learning how to evacuate casualties and give first aid. I had joined the Sudanese Red Crescent about two years before and loved the first aid work we did. The other two in the picture are still around; I’m the guy at the back, the other man now works in a medical store and the woman is bringing up her family.”
Several years after Latio joined the Red Crescent, he moved to Khartoum to study. “That was a great moment for me. It was the first time I had been in the city, it was incredible,” he remembers. “I continued to work with the Sudanese Red Crescent when I was studying and it was then that I learnt so much about the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement; its history and its founder.”
Inspired by his time in Khartoum, Latio moved back to Southern Sudan to become the branch manager of Juba, now South Sudan’s capital. After a break to study a Masters in development, he’s now back in Juba again, with a key role in disaster management for the new National Society.
Hard work ahead
With the independence of South Sudan at the beginning of July, the southern part of the Sudanese Red Crescent separated to become a new National Society. The new country has many development challenges, with limited infrastructure for health services in particular. But first, the National Society needs to establish itself and put in place a strong team to lead the hard work that will be needed.
Already hundreds of volunteers have signed up, with many taking place in the first act of the society, which was to provide first aid assistance during the independence celebrations. With sweltering temperatures, the volunteers attended to hundreds of people who fainted due to sunstroke or dehydration.
“We’re looking forward to becoming a really well functioning National Society,” said Latio. But he’s also aware of the challenges. “At the moment, we lack people and expertise. But it will come,” he adds optimistically and confidently. Perhaps that photograph hanging on the wall will be an inspiration to others.