First Person Blog

Voices, video, and photos from Oxfam's fight against poverty

In South Sudan, escalating violence again ensnares citizens

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Fathers recently arrived in Awerial dig a latrine for their families and nearby neighbors to use. Photo by Grace Cahill

Not yet three years old and only beginning to know what peace feels like, the world’s newest country—South Sudan—is again in the throes of extreme violence. Since fighting broke out in Juba, the capital, on Dec. 15, close to 10,000 people have been killed and almost 400,000 others have fled their homes.

Oxfam is working with the UN and other agencies to help families get food, clean water, and sanitation facilities. But the needs of displaced people are increasingly dire.

Oxfam’s Grace Cahill, a press officer, arrived in Juba on a recent Saturday and spent the following two days in Awerial, a settlement about a four-hour drive from the city. Along the lush shore of the Nile River, the location is now sheltering more than 75,000 people. Across the river is the town of Bor, where fighting between conflicting parties has been going on since mid-December.

Here is Cahill’s account of what she saw:

“While I was in Awerial you could hear heaving shelling and aerial bombing from the Bor side. Yesterday half the camp looked up to see an armed helicopter pass down along the river and turn towards Bor, a series of bombs was heard two minutes later. Quite obviously people are scared for their relatives who remain and worry about what they’ve to go back to, although it seems at the moment that there are safe on the Awerial side of the river.

“Private boats are charging displaced people to cross the Nile, from anywhere between 100 and 200 SSP per person ($30-$60) and that’s including children older than little toddlers. I met one family who had sold their entire stock of cattle (around 400 heads) to make sure the 100 members of their extended family could make it over the river. The crossing is dangerous. It can take all day. The boats are overcrowded so there’s great risk of capsizing, and there are crocodiles in the water. I heard of around 10 people who had died on the crossing: several drowned, a child was crushed by luggage and a man was hit by a stray shell or bomb.

“Once on the other side, people must wade through the heavy mud and hopefully find some shade to camp under. It’s hot, around 37 degrees in the day, and cool at night. Many people have only mats on the ground and no shelter. People are spread out all the way down the river between bushes and trees. This is not a “camp” setting, the host community has by and large welcomed people but the infrastructure of this small hamlet is overwhelmed. There’s an urgent need for sanitation. People are openly defecating. Oxfam has identified a need for 2,000 latrines to be dug for a population of around 80,000 people.”

Oxfam is calling for a swift and peaceful resolution to the conflict, with the protection of human rights at the core of the settlement.

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  1.'Les LaMotte

    We need your help to support 1,000 new refugees of the conflict in South Sudan… now in Ethiopia!

    It is with the greatest urgency and compassion I send you this information to seek your immediate assistance and partnership!

    Where is the request for help located?:
    We need your immediate help in the village of Matar in western Ethiopia. We own a small farm property there which we have run a small orphan center since 2009. Because of the recent fighting in South Sudan we now have 1,000 children running from South Sudan in only the last two weeks and we are sure this is not the last of them seeking help. Most are 10 years old and younger and possibly traumatized from witnessed their parents being brutally murdered in the past few weeks. We hope to attract other internationals to help manage these kinds of issues through temporary parenting.

    What do we need?:
    Cows, Emergency food, water or water filtration system, tents and some basic medical supplies. 

    What are we doing at present?:
    We have 10 cows which produce 3 small water sized bottles of milk per day feeding 60 children… we need an additional 167 head at about $250 per head (which are available in the area). We have all of the tribal and infrastructure agreements and boots on the ground network through the “Crying Lion Church” which is also located on our property. We have an ideal opportunity to serve the children if we can keep them alive long enough to get better organized and develop a small nest egg of reserve funding. Stephen, his mother and sister have maintained a small home spun orphanage since 2009. At the time in 2009 they had 20 children, and in recent years it has grown to 45 children… now we are over whelmed  with 1,000 and need immediate assistance.

    What is our organizational status?:
    We are NOT an official NGO entity at this time, however we are registered in South Sudan as “Sudan Hope” in which we did small relief and advocacy based projects in South Sudan since 2003 and are an official Non-Profit entity. The need for initial help is so desperately that we need to get the help immediately we will have to address the full legal aspects at a later date. I personally visited the area in 2009 and we have been sanctioned to represent the area for relief efforts and further development on our farm to come. My co-partner Stephen Khor Chambang and I have been working as “Insiders” for the South Sudanese in this area of Matar and Maker SS, since 9/11 and have won the respect of the tribes there and it is by their request that we can ask for your help.  

    Where are we located right now?:
    Stephen Khor Chambang – Networker / Community Organizer – 38 has dual citizenship in South Sudan and US and lives in Storm Lake IA with his wife and two children. 

    Les LaMotte – Designer / Planner – 62 retired with disability and live in Burnsville MN a suburb of Minneapolis MN. Former Owner and CEO of Xtra Lite Displays for the past 14 years with worldwide network in 35 countries. Traveled to Ethiopia and South Sudan 3 times since 2009.

    What will we be doing as organizers?:
    We will need some tickets funds to travel there to begin organizing the farm to handle this volume of children. We have designs for dormitories, water purification systems, and teaching the children to farm. We see our greatest potential in supporting the children over the long term by utilizing our additional village property (former house) directly in the village in which to set up a small “Roaring Lion shop” to sell the fruits of the farm, corn, sorghum, milk, and our own brand of solar panels and solar batteries in a small industry.  

    Who do you coordinate your efforts with?:
    Les LaMotte, Imagineer / Planner, would appreciate talking to someone who can help us set up a logistics and a supply drop plan to relieve the extreme stressfulness of the present influx of vulnerable children in this challenging refugee situation.

    Thank you and may God bless your efforts on our behalf.

    Roaring Lion Farm of Hope
    Serving the Refugee Children of South Sudan
    Established 2014

    Les LaMotte & Stephen Khor Chambang

    Offices in USA:
    421 E. Travelers Trail, Suite 105
    Burnsville MN 55337

    Farm in Matar Ethiopia:
    90 Miles West of Gambella, Ethiopia
    Good access road or water on Baro River (under construction)


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