Feeding Street Kids

The streets of Juba are full of children who struggle to survive without anyone to take care of them. A few faith-based organisations chose to give these street kids a day out of the ordinary.

Text & Photos: Thorkild Jørgensen.

Feeding Street Kids

It is as if the hundreds (or maybe the thousands) of street children of Juba have lost the interest of the outside world. Studies on these children are at least three or four years old, and none of them gives an estimated number of children who live on the streets of Juba.

It isn’t even easy to get organisations inside South Sudan to help the street kids of Juba– everyone has their one agenda and it is difficult to find funds to deviate from anyorganisation’s purpose for being in the country.

Reaching out to the vulnerable

Moses Telar, the director of the Bureau of Religious Affairs, got the idea that faith-based organisations in South Sudan should support a 3-day Christmas event of “preaching the Word of God and eating food with vulnerable children”. Although MAF and a few other organisations (SIL, Across, World Relief, Windle Trust and Far Reaching Ministries) came on board not enough money was raised to make it happen. The event was cut to a one day event and postponed until 8 March. Things still didn’t work out and some lost interest in the whole idea.

MAF and SIL decided to make a last effort and they aimed for Friday the 20th of April. MAF’sLogistics Officer Matthew Mundipale used his talents of logistics to find cooks, nurses, food, a tent, chairs, a sound system and a bus. Bishop Martin Mogga from Episcopal Church of South Sudan engaged social workers to find street boys and tell them that a picnic was going to be arranged for them.

On of the street kids about to start his meal

Creating awareness

On the morning of the event, when Matthew was driving all over Juba to pick up people and items, he stopped at an area called Green Rokon where a large group of street boys were waiting for a bus to pick them up. While the boys eagerly posed in front of the camera social worker Susan Paulino waved me over to a paralyzed boy who was sitting with his back against a shipping container. “Take a picture of him,” she said, which didn’t prove to beeasily done, because all of the other boys immediately fought to be in the picture as well.

Susan explained that the boy had asked her to bring the Kawaja (the white person) who was taking pictures, because if a Kawaja would take his picture, then maybe the world would become aware of the street kids of Juba and their hopeless situation.

Wounded and playful

Around 140 Boys from four areas of Juba were brought to the compound of the Bureau of Religious Affairs where a large tent had been set up in the morning. While some women were cooking food two nurses from the military hospital treated the wounds of more than 50 boys. Hydrogen peroxide disinfected the nasty and fly-ridden wounds with an impressive froth before they were wiped clean and dressed. Although this obviously was very painful only a few boys winced while they and their friends watched the procedure with interest. One younger boy with shins full of cuts and bruises hung around the nurses for a long time while he was plucking up the courage to have his wounds treated.

All around the grounds boys were playing, dancing and showing off. One young boy with one leg and a crutch wanted his picture taken and I asked him what had happened to hisleg. “Cobra,” he replied.

Speeches

The boys took a seat under the tent and Richard Malik from SIL welcomed everybody and opened with a prayer. Young students from Maridi’s Youth Christian Association (MYCA)sang songs of worship followed by speeches by Bishop Martin Mogga, Moses Telar, Hon. Rose Liso – the minister of Gender Child and Social Welfare – and even yours truly said a few words on behalf of the faith-based organisations involved in the event.

Half of the kids fell asleep during the speeches – they probably don’t sleep well in thestreets, and they are hungry – but when some of their own gang leaders were asked to talk to the assembly about their view on life they all cheered and clapped.

Bless the food

Food was then laid out on plates and everyone was asked to join in prayer as the bishop blessed the food. Many of these young boys bowed their heads reverently and folded their hands. Somebody had been teaching these lowliest of people about God!

Every boy got himself a plate of beans, ugali, potatoes, mandasi and a little meat. Some of the older boys sat quietly for a moment facing towards each other and prayed once again for the food to be blessed. Eating with their hands the kids dug in and savoured every mouthful of food with delight. Some were lucky enough to get second helpings.

Going “home”

Suddenly all of the boys ran out through the gate, crossed the street and lept on to the bus that had come to bring the boys back to the areas where they came from. Soon the boys were packed like sardines inside the bus, waving out the windows while they drove off to a life that nobody would envy.

Going “home”

 

About the street kids of Juba:
In 2010 it was estimated that 1,200 kids were living on the streets of Juba. There is no reason to believe that the number has dropped. According to Oxfam IBIS “most of theparents of street children lack employment because they are demobilised soldiers not yet
integrated into the society. The children who live in the city centre, around Juba’s mainmarkets and trading areas, are perceived by the public as outcasts and often treated in a hostile manner. Especially if they spend the night outdoors they are continually harassed by the local police and often imprisoned. The majority of street living children do not have permanent sleeping places during night time. They keep moving from one place to another, in search of a safe corner where the possibility of being raped, robbed or harassed is minimized. This is especially a priority for the girls who are in danger of becoming victims ofsexual violence first and of sexual exploitation later.”
A study in 2015 targeted 120 children within the age of 6-17 years of age in the five majormarkets in Juba city. According to the study “the majority of the street children are malewithin the age of 10-14 years and originally from urban areas. They survive by engaging in works such as selling wares, shoe shining, collecting rubbish, collecting empty bottles for re- use by local beverage makers, washing cars, and others beg or steal. They face a lot of problems such as drop out from school, drugs abuse, and feeding themselves with leftovers. They experience inhuman treatment such as torture, rape and arrest by police.”

Hepatitis is a very serious, infectious and life-threatening disease. In parts of South Sudan the occurrence is so high that it can be categorized as an epidemic. Dr. David Anthony Tikimo, a specialist in tropical medicine and endemic diseases, has volunteered to help get the spreading under control.

Dr. David Tikimo flies to Ibba on a vaccination campaign to stop the spreading of the hepatitis virus, which is prevalent in many regions of South Sudan.

Vomiting blood and putting everybody else at risk

Dr. David boards the MAF Caravan in Juba together with boxes of medication and a young girl. She is one of the students from Ibba Girls’ Boarding School, who were tested two weeks earlier when Dr. David was in Ibba to conduct a Hepatitis screening of the inhabitants of the town.

The girl on the plane was tested positive with the Hepatitis B virus. The virus had entered the secondary stage, and she was vomiting blood (haemoptysis), her adomen and her legs were swollen, and it was difficult for her to defecate.

“Haemoptysis is a very serious condition, so I took her with me to my clinic in Juba for further treatment,” Dr. David explains. “She responded well to the medication, and I have now taken her with me on the MAF plane to bring her back to her parents in Ibba. Her condition has improved greatly, and she will be able to resume her studies.”

10 minutes before the plane lands on the airstrip in Ibba the girl vomits into a paper bag. Very fluid, but without blood. Hoping it won’t begin to leak I hold the bag until the plane lands and I can dispose of it among the bushes at the side of the airstrip. It makes me feel bad, but this is not an airport with garbage cans.

Widespread infection

When Dr. David started his voluntary work he discovered that the virus was widespread, and that 5 or 6 individuals of the same family could be infected. This gave him the idea to start screening people in certain areas. The aim would be to vaccinate and treat people and also to give people knowledge about how to avoid getting and spreading hepatitis. Hepatitis can be infectious, and once a family member has the virus it can spread and eventually kill the rest of the family.

People waiting for their names to be called out at the health center in Ibba. MAF has flown Dr. David Tikimoto Ibba on a vaccination campaign to stop the spreading of the hepatitis virus, which is prevalent in many regions of South Sudan.

Last year Dr. David started the Hepatitis immunisation campaign in Wau and Malakal (northwest and north) and the disease is under control in those areas. In 2018 the focus is on Ibba, Maridi and Yambio (southwest).

On his first visit to Ibba Dr. David was amazed to see that the disease had spread all over Ibba county, and especially prevalent in the small villages around Ibba. Most of the population was infected by Hepatitis B virus without knowing it.

“At the boarding school 40 % of the students were infected, so we have instructed the administrators that every child should be screened before they are enrolled,” Dr. David says. “If they carry the virus they cannot enter the school, while the rest must be vaccinated. It is vital to get the spreading under control, and these are crucial measures to be taken seriously!”

Dr. David Tikimo flies with MAF to Ibba on a vaccination campaign to stop the spreading of the hepatitis virus, which is prevalent in many regions of South Sudan.

Ahead of him was a big task of vaccinating those who were not infected and to instruct and treat those who were.

Immunisation or isolation

Advanced stages of hepatitis are untreatable in South Sudan and have to be treated in other countries which makes treatment unaffordable for the vast majority of the population. A solution could be to keep people in advanced stages of hepatitis isolated from other people to keep the virus from spreading. But to isolate people in small communities where people live closely together and share utensils and toilets is very difficult to ensure, and therefore immunisation of everybody else is of paramount importance.

Dr. David Tikimo flies to Ibba on a vaccination campaign to stop the spreading of the hepatitis virus, which is prevalent in many regions of South Sudan.

“Adults who are not infected will be given a combined Hepatitis B and C vaccine, whereas children from 8 to 16 years of age can only be given B-vaccines,” Dr. David explains. “For those who are tested positive Interferon is a very effective medication for preliminary treatment, but if the infection has reached an advanced stage it can have caused hepatoma, cancer of the liver cells, which can become malignant and deadly.”

“We also advise infected people to keep to a special diet, and they have to refrain from drinking alcohol and eating certain things, especially meat from bush animals and pigs who can be carriers of the virus.”

Time for tea

At the airstrip the commissioner of Ibba, Tito Gersoma, had arranged for us (MAF-pilot Wim Hobo and myself) to be picked up at the airstrip together with the doctor and taken to the town’s health center. Before we leave, an elderly gentleman is appointed the task of guarding the aeroplane.

First stop is the ECSS church of Ibba, where a pastor greets us welcome with a prayer and invites us inside for a cup of tea. After all, the The Episcopal Church of South Sudan (ECSS) facilitates the transportation of medicine and health workers, provides accomodation and work locations, and handles a great deal of the administrative work together with the county and its commissioner. The campaign is carried out in collaboration with The Ministry of Health in South Sudan, The Institute of Endemic Diseases in Germany who has donated the vaccines and medication, and ECSS.

“We are going to test the clergy of Ibba diocese,” Dr. David says. “If they prove negative they will be given immunisation, if positive they will be taken to Juba for treatment. If they respond positively to the treatment and improve they will be sent back to Ibba.”

Going back for more

At the health center people are waiting by the scores – in an attempt to avoid the blazing sun many have crammed inside a narrow passageway in a stench of sour sweat. Two weeks ago there were not enough supplies at the health center, so Dr. David decided to go back to Juba to get more equipment for diagnosing and to get more vaccines and medication.

People waiting for their names to be called out at the health center in Ibba. MAF has flown Dr. David Tikimoto Ibba on a vaccination campaign to stop the spreading of the hepatitis virus, which is prevalent in many regions of South Sudan.

“The level of infected people was much higher than anticipated,” Dr. David says. “We are now increasing the screening programme and engaging more people to assist with testing and vaccinations.”

Outside a man is calling out people’s names and one by one they go to the room in the outpatients’ ward where Dr. David is ready with syringes and vaccines. There is enough work to be done, so Wim Hobo volunteers to assist with registering the patients.

On our way back to the airstrip the commissioner takes us to see the boarding school. Here we meet Vicky Ajidiru, the deputy headmaster, who shows us two of the classrooms where the students are taking a midday nap across their school bags. In the yard we meet a large group of girls. They will soon be rolling up their left sleeves to receive a vaccine against hepatitis.

The day after MAF will come back to Ibba and fly the doctor back to Juba. Hopefully, he has achieved what he came out to Ibba to do – getting the Hepatitis epidemic under control.

Text & Photos: Thorkild Jørgensen.

Following a new eruption of violence in Juba, South Sudan in July, MAF continues to fly much needed supplies to our partner Tearfund in the remote village of Motot for their nutrition program.

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MAF pilot Mark Liprini landed at the Juba, South Sudan airport early in the morning of 28 July to begin two round-trip flights to the remote village of Motot. Each would include a full tonne of freight for Tearfund’s nutrition program for pregnant and lactating mothers and children fighting acute malnutrition, with another two flights planned for the following day.

“I really enjoy these flights, to see us move four tonnes of food for mothers and children that I knew were going to go hungry if they didn’t have it,” Mark said.

Unusual Circumstances

Flying cargo for Tearfund in South Sudan is nothing unusual. Under normal circumstances, MAF South Sudan makes two flights a week to Motot to support the Christian UK charity. But these were unusual circumstances.

Just three weeks earlier, Juba exploded in a new wave of violence resulting in many staff from international NGOs trying to evacuate the country. The Juba airport closed for three days. For approximately a week, security clearance issues prevented UN flights from operating in most of the country. Heavy rain turned many remote airstrips where MAF flies into sticky mud. Programs still operating in remote areas unaffected by the violence began running low on supplies.

In the week immediately following the crisis, MAF began taking evacuation requests once the airport opened. The second week included a mix of evacuations and the resumption of regular flying within South Sudan. Tearfund needed supplies, but heavy rain had made the airstrip unlandable. By the third week, several hot days in a row dried out the Motot airstrip and made it possible to fulfill the first round of flights to meet Tearfund’s needs.

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30-minute Turn-around

As Mark Liprini landed in Juba on the 28th to begin the first round of Tearfund flights, the MAF South Sudan dispatch team descended on the airplane. “It was like a Formula One Grand Prix turnaround. I land, and the guys are all over the aircraft, taking seats out, packing stuff, then ‘Go, go, go!’ We did every turnaround in less than 30 minutes,” Mark described. “The MAF crew on the ground was really outstanding. All that played a major role in assisting the Tearfund project in Motot and getting the stuff done. We were able to do two rotations a day, two days in a row, which was six hours of flying each day, hauling four tonnes of stuff up to the clinic to help these kids and mothers who desperately needed the nutrition.”

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Fulfilling Work

“Thanks for the important service that MAF is providing,” Enkas Chau, Tearfund’s area coordinator in Motot wrote to MAF following the deliveries. “MAF has helped to deliver supplies like Plumpynut for children under five suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition, and Corn and Soy Bean for pregnant and lactating mothers suffering from Moderate Acute Malnutrition. Thank you for your prompt delivery which helped the services continue.”

A May 2016 pre-harvest Nutrition SMART survey in Uror County where Tearfund works found that the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate of children under five had reached 24.8%, and Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) rate hit 6.8%, both alarming levels based on World Health Organization standards. Without proper treatment, particularly those diagnosed as SAM, children are at high risk of getting other illnesses and may even die. Tearfund operates nine feeding centers in Uror to combat the problem. After community screening, malnourished children and mothers are referred to those feeding centers where supplementary food is provided. More than 90% recover within two months (one treatment cycle).

“This was a tangible way I was helping,” Mark said, “and that for me was a very, very fulfilling thing to have done.”

Although the airstrip received heavy rain again the week following the four tonne delivery, MAF plans to fly seven to eight more tonnes of supplies the moment the airstrip dries out, and will continue to support Tearfund as long as there is a need.

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Delivering measles vaccines for Medair to assist in large scale measles outbreak in Aweil, South Sudan


Story by Karyn Ball. Photos by Diana Gorter and LuAnne Cadd

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Pilot Chris Ball looks into the back of the MAF Cessna Caravan and sees half a dozen large coolers securely tied down by his dispatch team. “These are the biggest coolers I have ever seen,” Chris comments. The coolers, measuring 3 feet long by 2 feet high, are transporting thousands of vaccines for an emergency measles vaccination campaign run by Medair

MAF is helping to bring in the supplies to vaccinate somewhere in the neighbourhood of 40 000 to 60 000 children,” Chris explains. “This is a pretty amazing sight.”

Medair is a Christian humanitarian organization whose mission is to relieve human suffering in some of the world’s most remote and devastated places. Medair works in many poor, isolated and war-torn communities within South Sudan, including Aweil North.

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Alicia Morcombe, Medair’s health manager, explains the situation. Medair came to Aweil North for a multi-sector assessment and it became clear very quickly that health needs were a huge priority in the county, especially problems caused by the measles outbreak. The more communities we visited, the more people told us of children dying of measles. We even heard about one community who were burying children everyday who had died from preventable diseases, including measles.”

Reports from the field indicated that already hundreds of children were suffering from measles, with thousands more at risk. Though children rarely die of measles in developed countries, conflict and an under-funded health system means that routine immunisation for young children is rare in South Sudan. Coupled with high rates of malnutrition and poor living conditions these children are even more susceptible to this highly contagious disease.

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“There was no time to lose after our assessment,” Alicia recounts. “We were able to launch the measles campaign in a week.”

And this is when MAF entered the picture. Medair contacted MAF to request a flight from Juba to Aweil to deliver the vaccines as quickly as possible. It is imperative that measles vaccines keep cool. A long and bumpy trip in a vehicle on insecure roads was out of the question. The vaccines simply wouldn’t remain cold enough.

“In a measles campaign you have to keep the vaccines very, very cold,” says Alicia. “In a context like South Sudan, where it’s very hot, with limited reliable electricity supply, that can be quite difficult and it’s also difficult because the country is so huge. That’s just one of the biggest challenges.”

Just three hours later, Chris landed in Aweil and unloaded the huge coolers of vaccines. The Medair staff consisting of 43 teams and 290 local staff then travelled village to village providing measles vaccinations to thousands of children. At each vaccination site, hundreds of mothers lined up with their little ones, eager for their sons and daughters to receive the life-saving vaccines.

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Twenty seven year old Mary, a mother of five, expresses her thanks. “Measles is very dangerous. I’m very happy because now my children will be free from measles. If Medair had not done the measles campaign, the outbreak would have left a trace of destruction behind and there would have been many deaths.”

By the end of their campaign, Medair’s team vaccinated an astounding 49,483 children. What seemed like an insurmountable task is now an amazing accomplishment.

Alicia and her team are proud of the work they are doing. “The vaccination campaign has been a huge challenge because Aweil North County is so big and the population is so spread out. But when you see children getting vaccinated, it’s an amazing moment. It makes all the hard work worth it to know that we can save these children from dying of measles.”

“We’re extremely grateful for MAF’s support and contribution to our life-saving measles vaccination campaign in Aweil North,” says Ruth Burns, Health Project Manager on Medair’s Emergency Response team. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”

MAF South Sudan continues to serve partners such as Medair on a daily basis, providing flights just like this one, resulting in life saving work.

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