Friday, November 27, 2015

South Sudan

South Sudan is an interesting place to find yourself in.
Curfews, stories of violence, of fights, stories of survival, stories of disappointments.
I spend most of the time in Goal's compounds in Twic and Agok, a few hours by plane north of Juba, at the border with Sudan.
Very far from anything. In Twic there is no coca cola nor pepsi. That is how remote it is.
I visited nutrition centers and hospitals, met with women groups, discussed about childhood and access to adulthood with community members... great.
Interesting for me, a few weeks before I was in Ethiopia, in the refugee camps of Gambella, populated by South Sudanese Nuer. Here I was in South Sudan, with the Dinkas.
Nuer and Dinkas are the two main groups fighting against each-other, with horrible stories of massacres, mutilation, hate. The Nuers I met all had nasty stories about Dinkas. For me it is difficult to truly understand how different they are, and what is the base of so much hate. They seem to be so similar.

The country I have seen lives thanks to Humanitarian aid. From the airplanes in Juba airport, the presence of blue-soldiers, the logos on hospitals, schools, the branding of houses... evidence of the presence of NGO and the UN is everywhere. And they are certainly running a lot of social, education and health services.
It should costs the world 800 millions a year, to assure peace, survival, education and health in this war-thorn country. Half has been raised in 2015. Whilst I was there people were looking at the options to shut down operations, lack of funds means to close nutrition centers, delivery rooms, community support...

When I came back someone asked me if it would not just be better to stop the humanitarian aid, stop accepting refugees and leave the people to sort their problems out.
A watch and see attitude.
Behind it is the opinion that Humanitarian aid can fuel or help maintain conflict. I didn't really knew how to respond and make sense of my position. Yes, maybe, humanitarian action and human kindness are giving an option to people that are suffering to seek shelter, hospitality and help. And that might not push them to fight back, and maybe sort out the problem.
And continue the cycle of violence.
And enable the strongest, with the most weapon, cash to destroy the others. And the most vulnerable are children, women, old people. The past, the future and the creators. 
It's like telling a kid that has been raped or beaten to sort his/her shit out with his/her abuser.
It is siding with the bully. I feel it is not good.
So why is humanitarian aid so essential? Because it remind us to embrace that this world deserve to exist in a multi-cultural way, where all have the right to exist.

Today, in Paris world leaders are discussing Climate change and environment. It is a great challenge for humankind, I am happy it is a growing concern.
One of the other challenge that not many are addressing is the systematic cultural diversity destruction that is happening. Languages, ways of living, cultures are permanently removed and with them our human identity.
We destroy the environment, but we are even more efficient in destroying ourselves, and destroying those who do not thing like us. If people think differently, have other ways to eat, pray, relate... I think to myself  "wahw, they are showing me a new way to be human". And they deserve respect and the right to exist. 

So, is the country under Humanitarian-dip? For sure.
Does it have negative impact? Yes probably.
Does it cost a lot? 80 USD per year per South Sudanese.
What is the impact? Life-changing. Enabling people to survive, to live better and to build a future, not only for the people of South Sudan, but for all of us, and our human diversity.

Fascinating thing in South Sudan is the bird diversity. Small colorful bee-eaters, vultures, kites, eagles, to big crested cranes. Its a great place to see those flying things.
And cows. Everywhere, with their massive horns. Beautiful..
And very, very tall people. I'me average size, some of the Nuers and Dinkas tower me from two heads above. They are majestic in the way they walk, the scarification on their faces and bodies, the bond they have with their cattle, it is very strange and beautiful. And often beyond my capacity to understand.
The relation with the cattle is very difficult for me to get. I see steak, they see an extension of themselves, wealth and respectability, honor, spirituality, I don't know.


I came back from 5 weeks working in Ethiopia and South Sudan, and with a short trip to Nairobi.
Exceptional countries for many different reasons. Unique.

I Ethiopia I mainly worked with Goal's teams in Gambella's refugee camps; welcoming people fleeing South Sudan, and with organizations responding to unaccompanied children on the move: street children, immigrants...
In Gambella alone there are over 120'000 refugees. Only 10% of them are men. The Men are mostly still in South Sudan, trying to save their cattle, fields and property. Women, children and old people have moved to seek security and to ensure survival.
They feel that life in a camp is better than life at home. Says it all.
It was very powerful to be there when Europe was -finally- opening its eyes on the people choosing to move out of their homeland and seeking refuge in a foreign land. It felt as if the Old lady woke up after a huge binge-drinking bender, with a headache and somehow surprised about "What the hell is happening?".

There are an estimate of 60 millions refugees and internally displaced people in the world today, among which 19 millions are refugees and asylum seekers. In 2014-2015 the USA welcomed 121.000 of them,  Russia 274.000 and the entire European Union member states 695.000.
On one side people are debating their hospitality and hosting ability, they are wondering what makes it impossible for the migrants to stay in their homeland. They are fearing for their comfort and respond with hate. They are showing the worst: locked doors, fear, hate, racism etc. True pollution.
On the other hand, some opinions shared publicly are showing compassion, empathy and the best human can give: love and care.  

Ethiopia revealed itself to me by the kindness and hospitality of the people. Without understanding the languages, discovering a society so truly fundamentally different than mine, I felt hosted and welcomed by all. From the coffee ladies, the bar-customers, the social workers or the people sitting and looking whilst I am drawing, I really felt a true interest in being with me.
Very uplifting indeed.
I loved being there, experiencing the polychomatic world of diversity, having my soul strengthen, and my comfort shaken. I love feeling the togetherness. It is cool.

Nothing much to say. You need to go to Ethiopia to feel for yourself.


Monday, November 9, 2015

what on earth is that

The book is out!
The author, Sarah just got the books in Zimbabwe and it has been on sale online for a couple of weeks now. 
I have seen one in the hand of my parents and family but still have not handled one, That will only happen in 3 weeks, once I am back home. 
In any way, it is available via amazon and reaches your house in a couple of days only!

"What On Earth Is That?" Is the delightful story of 2 children who find an extraordinary creature while playing and set off on a journey to find out what on earth it could be. It is funny and charming but delivers a powerful message raising awareness and inspiring children of all ages and adults alike to help to protect the most-trafficked but least-known mammal on the planet - the pangolin.

Where to buy the book


Bricks and Mortar