South Sudan has suffered from nearly four years of conflict. Millions are lacking the very basic necessities to survive – clean water, food, shelter, medicine.
Meet a few of the people helped by the Red Cross at a recent aid distribution in Rokon, central Equatoria.
South Sudan is a vast country – slightly larger than France. Central Equatoria, in the south of the country, is traditionally a rich area with a large farming population.
But the conflict has left many unable to work their land. There has also been an influx of people made homeless by fighting in other parts of the country. Many lost all their belongings when fleeing.
Cecilia Tabu, 12, is waiting under a tree with her mother Vajda.
“Normally, our only food is leaves that we cook with salt and water,” says Vajda.
“Usually, we have nothing, so today we are happy. We can finally eat something different.”
Cecilia fled her village with her mother and four siblings one year ago.
Her father was killed while he was collecting food for the family. After this her mother decided that their home was not safe anymore.
Simple things, like a hoe for cultivation, will help her family get back on their feet.
In this recent distribution, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), working with the South Sudan Red Cross, focused on distributing seeds and tools to help people get back into farming so they can provide for themselves.
They were also given food to tide them over until they can harvest their crops. Around 13,000 people received seeds, tools and food in Rokon.
The ICRC is distributing different kinds of seeds, including ground nuts, kale, okra, onion, amaranthus and pumpkin.
“When we have cultivated these crops, you have to come back,” says Mary, 40, sitting with her seven-month-old child.
“Before this, we have only been eating green leaves. We are worried that some of the crops can get stolen from us, but we hope we will be OK.”
A three-year-old girl plays with a piece of paper during the distribution.
Her mother says: “I am happy to come, because we have been facing hunger. Today we can make porridge. I’m looking forward to it so much.”
“Before the crisis, life was good. We had no hunger. Because of the drought we lost all our crops and were left with no seeds,” Jennifer explains.
She was first in line on the second day of the distribution and got support for her daughter Alice and her other children.
Henry, a father of seven, explains the significance behind his hat, emblazoned with ‘winner’ across the front.
“I was operated for hernia and I won the battle, so I decided to get this cap for myself,” he says.
“Sometimes the wound is very painful and I have to do a lot of heavy lifting, but I hope this distribution can help us.”
Brothers Oliver and Manuel Layo enjoy a handful of peanuts.
Their mother says: “Our life will change now that these items are distributed. It will shift from a bad to a good life.
“We can finally stop eating leaves, which have been causing diarrhoea and making the children sick.”
Like many across the country, this lady had resorted to eating leaves to survive.
She says: “People are coming from different places, but we have to run sometimes because of the crisis.
“My husband passed away a few years ago, so it is only me. We are only eating leaves, as there is nothing else.”
Charles came to Rokon two years ago to look for food to support his family.
“In my home village we have rebels in the bush and the situation is not good,” he says.
“I miss my homeland and I hope I can go back once the crisis is over. My two girls are still there and I worry about them.
“They are seven and ten years old. It is difficult to reach them, because we don’t have electricity and sometimes even a working phone network. I try to send food as often as I can.”
It takes a lot of preparation to make sure the distribution is safe and fair. South Sudan Red Cross volunteers play a key role in ensuring that everyone gets what they need so there are no disagreements.
With your support, Red Cross volunteers and staff in South Sudan will be able to reach more of those in need.