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Sudan: In the wake of conflict comes health and celebration

  • Published

    29 July 2010
  • Written by

    Peace Direct

“After many years they sent us a ‘medical caravan’ because they know now that there is no tension and the area is calm.” Naema – a local midwife

Last month in a dusty village in South Kordofan a healthcare ‘caravan’ arrived to provide medical services to two tribes. The caravan stayed for three days and as the people received care and attention they told stories of the hardship they had suffered. A young woman named Handi told of her sadness of losing her baby after bleeding for seven days before anyone could find transport to take her to the nearest health service.

Sudan suffers some of the most extreme poverty on Earth. In these remote villages people live in grass huts and there is no sanitation, health service or formal education. As Handi’s story shows a travelling healthcare caravan provides a life-saving service, and yet this is the first time in over five years that the caravan has been able to visit. Conflict had torn the communities apart and made it unsafe for anyone to travel through the area.

Up until the end of the Civil War these two tribes had lived side by side, they shared land, water and married between tribes. But cattle raiding between the two tribes became common and farmers armed themselves to protect their scarce resources. The true tragedy of this story is there is a water dam in the land between the two tribes and the surrounding land is the most fertile in the area. For over five years women had to walk over eight miles each day to find an alternative source of water, and the land which could have fed both of the tribes lay unfarmed.

The Collaborative for Peace set up a Peace Committee in the area, and was quickly approached by community members from both tribes. They all spoke of huge gatherings in the past, the dancing and celebrations when they saw each other, and they asked the committee to help this happen again.

We saw you come from far away to help us. We said to ourselves, we should feel ashamed, we are here, we should work seriously for peace. - Dawood, village teacher

On 7 April the committee arranged for the two tribes to meet again. Vehicles are uncommon in the area, and most people travel by donkey, camel or on foot, so the committee organised for trucks to help transport the people. Over 500 men women and children made the two-hour journey to visit their neighbouring tribe – a journey none of them had made in over five years. Over two days the people of the two tribes talked, discussed and found solutions. The talks were lengthy but as one tribal elder said, “This is our chance to change our community with our own hands.”

At the end of the two days, the Collaborative gave each tribe some funds to buy seeds so that in May they were able to plant their land. The two communities number about 5,000 people and this land can provide enough crops to feed their families and some extra to sell at market.

The Collaborative returned to the area earlier this month, the benefits of peace could be seen everywhere. They learnt of how the two tribes had together approached the local commissioner to petition for the health caravan to visit and of how they were working together to make real improvements in their lives.

Now I am able to take my goats and move from one place to another with no fear. I am happy. - Mahamood, village Imam

A basic economy is beginning to thrive and members of the different tribes are able to travel freely to visit one another. A ‘family day’ was organised for all communities in the district to come together in celebration, and people from neighbouring communities, including the media, are able to visit, so their region does not get lost to conflict.

My son has come from the city to help me with farming – Halima, village singer

It cost less that £2,000 for the Collaborative to fund this intervention – just 40 pence for each of the 5,000 people who have benefitted so much from the peace it has bought.

The Collaborative for Peace has set up eight Peace Committees like this across Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Over the next year they plan to set up eight more. Please make a gift today and help these communities to lead themselves out of conflict.

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