How much do you know about South Sudan, the world’s newest country? When the area previously known as Southern Sudan became an independent state in 2011, there was much rejoicing from its people, who had been affected by civil war for many years. But almost two years on, there are many issues still affecting the country and its inhabitants. Leprosy is just one of these.
South Sudan is one of the 18 countries reporting more than 1,000 new cases of leprosy every year, and detection rates have also been rising there. We are in the process of developing new projects and have been identifying other issues affecting communities there, including extreme poverty, lack of access to education and healthcare, poor housing and sanitation facilities, and lack of clean water.
Head of Programmes Coordination Sian Arulanantham visited South Sudan this month in order to carry out planning work with communities there, including a leprosy colony near Juba, the country’s capital city. One of the people she met on her visit was 11-year-old Madelina, who along with her sister Rebecca, seven, cares for her grandmother who is disabled as a result of leprosy.
Madelina and her family are living in a shack that provides inadequate shelter from the elements, and are desperate to secure land rights as well as the support to build a new house and toilet. Her grandmother, Jane, cannot work due to her disabilities so their only income is from begging. She is keen for Madelina and Rebecca to have better opportunities and a better life, so the family eat just one meal a day in order to pay for the girls to attend school.
Madelina loves to learn, but the cost of school fees and uniform means her education is always under threat. Most of the children in the community are not attending school at all.
“We are trapped in a circle of darkness, unable to see the light,” said Chief Charles Duba, describing life in the colony. He explained that limited medical supplies mean that people cannot care for wounds and ulcers caused by leprosy, and that they cannot afford footwear to prevent injuries. When added to the issues caused by hunger, poor sanitation, and insufficient housing, life seems desperate.
This is why the work we do and the generosity of our supporters is so vital, and why we are committing to making changes in the lives of people affected by leprosy in South Sudan. As we begin to put these plans into place, we’re praying that lives will be transformed.
Read more about our work in South Sudan and Sian’s visits there in 2012.