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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
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 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 US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of 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.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs