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.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs