Setting a path for development in South Sudan

Publié: 7 juillet 2011 16:20 CET

By Faye Callaghan in South Sudan

In Sumba Lorie, about 40km outside the South Sudan capital Juba, around 45 community members are having an animated discussion. “We have come this far, we must now find a solution,” said one. “The youth must be involved, they have sharp minds,” added another. “Don’t forget the women, we are the ones that use the centre most,” chirped up an elderly lady.

They are discussing how to address the problem of not having any medical staff in their community of 5,000. “We built this clinic ourselves,” said Marcero, chief of the village. “We sold sand from the river banks and all the money was saved so we could build this beautiful clinic,” he explains, proudly gesturing at what is certainly the biggest and most modern structure in the village. The problem now is that there is no-one to work in and no drugs to dispense.

Local volunteers are working with communities to help them find solutions to problems such as this. “There are no medical staff to help women having babies in this community, so many have them at home and it’s too far to get help if things go wrong,” explained Martin Wani, a Red Crescent volunteer who lives in the community. “This VCA process gets them together, gets them talking and then they come up with their own solutions,” he added. “For example, they have just agreed that someone in the community should be identified to be trained as a midwife and they will approach an NGO to help that woman get trained so she can be the one ensuring our women and children are safe and healthy.”

A VCA is a vulnerability and capacity assessment, a way of encouraging communities to identify the issues holding back their development, and also to find the solutions. When South Sudan becomes independent on 9 July, it will be one of the poorest countries in Africa, with a host of development needs. “We have trained volunteers from all branches to run VCAs and over the next couple of months they will start to work with the communities to develop their plans,” said Lena Leipe, an organisational development delegate for the IFRC in South Sudan. “We find this approach successful as it puts the communities themselves in charge of their own development. They set out what are the biggest issues for their village and they come up with the solutions. Of course their local Red Cross Red Crescent branch is there to monitor their progress and help them where they can.”

In Sumba Lorie, the community has identified another issue – one common to many villages in South Sudan: a lack of safe drinking water. The village has water pumps but most are broken. “We don’t have the spare parts, we can’t fix them,” comes the dejected reply from one person. But when prompted by the Red Crescent volunteers, they admit that a few villagers know how to fix the pumps, if only they had the money to buy spare parts. “So we should share the cost. Let’s all put in a few pounds and we can all benefit from the clean water,” tentatively suggests a member of the group. The response is positive; all agree that would be the best solution. With their local Red Crescent volunteer encouraging them to keep focused on their plan and see through what they agreed today, the village of Sumba Lorie should have healthy mothers and babies and clean drinking water before long.

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