News

Seeds of Change for Thousands of Abyei Displaced

Thousands of displaced persons from Abyei collect food rations in a makeshift camp in Turalei, southern Sudan. (File Photo - May 27, 2011)
Thousands of displaced persons from Abyei collect food rations in a makeshift camp in Turalei, southern Sudan. (File Photo - May 27, 2011)
Hannah McNeish

More than 100,000 people fled to South Sudan from Abyei, a contested, oil-rich area occupied by Sudanese troops in May 2011.

Almost a year later, they find themselves nearly destitute after missing harvests and exhausting the scant resources of local communities in the newly-independent, but impoverished south. The International Committee of the Red Cross is trying to help them rebuild their lives.

Scarce food

Akec Dut is one of hundreds of women pressed into patches of shade under trees bearing the bitter, prune-shaped lalop fruit in the village of Nyintar, where food is becoming increasingly scarce before the planting season.

As she gnaws on a lalop to try and stave off what has become an almost constant hunger, Dut says that her husband has been begging various relatives for a few dollars to buy grain for their five children since they fled Abyei violence 11 months ago.

“The life here in Agok is so difficult after leaving Abyei," said Dut. "Only what we are depending on now is you just go and sell your goods, when some traders come around with maize, you just go and buy, and if you have relatives you go and ask. That’s why my husband has gone to Agok; to ask some relatives to give.”

Displaced women gather to collect water from a water hole near Jamam refugee camp in South Sudan's Upper Nile State, March 10, 2012.
Displaced women gather to collect water from a water hole near Jamam refugee camp in South Sudan's Upper Nile State, March 10, 2012.
After seeing her crops and house burnt down and fleeing bullets “in the red light” of dawn to come here, Dut is too scared to go back to Abyei. The area was supposed to have a referendum last year on whether to join Sudan or South Sudan. But the poll never happened because of disputes over who was eligible to vote, and Sudan then took over the region by force.

Dut hopes today she will receive the tools to feed her family well and carve out a small existence in South Sudan until one day there is peace.

“If I get seeds, that’s what will make my life," she said. "Because I will cult[ivate] if I have access to harvest, so I will sell the rest and I will change my diet if possible. Now, we are only depending on the leaves of the trees and Lalop.”

While the U.N. estimates around 110,000 Dinka Ngok people ethnically linked to South Sudan came to southern villages, many residents fled for fear of violence spreading south, meaning that harvests were ruined.

Andrea Anselmi, Economic Security Delegate for the ICRC, says that only around 10 percent of Nyintar’s residents harvested anything last year.

Dwindling resources

Anselmi says survival options in these villages are limited, and the mass influx of people from Abyei has put further pressure on meager local resources.

“They are relying on the host community, so the people that stayed here and maybe had some harvest," said Anselmi. "They were fishing but at the moment the river is almost dry, they rely on wild vegetables and wild fruits, and in many places they are just collecting firewood and making charcoal to sell these things to the market.”

In Nyinatar, the ICRC is giving out tools and seeds to over 200 needy families to grow grains and vegetables, and a half ration of food for up to three weeks to give people the energy to plant and resist eating the seeds.

The scheme will help thousands more people in surrounding villages to start rebuilding their lives.

Newcomers

At another distribution center in the village of Abothok, local administrator Kat Kuol says that around 6,000 people arrived here from Abyei, pushing the local population to over 10,000.

He says that for now, relatives and aid agencies such as the U.N. World Food Program are filling the gap, but that resources will be strained until these people can cultivate themselves.

Back in Nyintar, Aciei Arop’s spriteliness belies her age, as she gathers large sacks of food and rigorously checks that all her seeds are there.

She says that her family has been surviving on one cup of sorghum per day, but now she will have enough to feed her five children and also sell at local markets.

"It will change my life as I’m going to cultivate, and when the outcome of what I have cultivated comes, I will get a variety of items that I will also eat at home, so that I can sell some of those things so that I can change my life," said Arop.

Sudan and South Sudan are holding talks to settle several major issues, including the route of their border and the long-term fate of Abyei. The talks have been marked by tension and lack of progress.  For now, seeds and tools may be the best hope for Abyei's former residents to rebuild their lives.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs