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Frogs, but no snakes…

Before we left Aroyo we had a chance to see a health centre and a school we had helped build.  These will make a real difference – the next challenge for the state is to provide the medical team and teachers to make use of these facilities.  We saw children being educated under trees so the new school will make a real difference.  We have also drilled bore holes – I saw one we had done – and we have our own drilling rig.

Apart from the most adventurous, this community is physically cut off from the outside world when the rains arrive and the area floods. They are due soon. The boat that we helped purchase will significantly improve communication in the rainy season. The Commissioner asked for a second boat to improve communication.  Again we said that this was dependent on funding.

Back to Aweil and meetings with the Minister of Education and the Director General of Social Affairs. They both recognised the contribution of Save the Children. There was some reflection on the challenges being faced by South Sudan. A referendum is due in 2011 for separation from North Sudan and this could bring with it uncertainty, particularly with the debate over ownership of oil revenues within South Sudan. There has been a marked increase in the price of food (sorghum – the main and often only staple crop is up at least 30% in the year) and hunger may be a reality. This is exacerbated by this time of year being the “hungry season”.  There are things to watch here.

We went from there to our compound in Malualkon, which is almost in “hibernation”. The recent staff cuts to balance the budget have reduced staff numbers. This was a busy place at the time of the conflict and operation Lifeline.  Again it was very basic and we slept in tents. Very impressed again with our people – not only do they deliver great work but they do so in intense conditions.

I found the trip to meet the children in Madhol involved with our protection project demanding – very hot, dusty and intense environment.  Meeting the children (there were almost 100 of them) was great and it was a chance to understand some of the post-conflict issues such as returning abductees and child soldiers, and more generally about life for children. It was great to talk to the children and see what was on their minds – interestingly the boys were asking for football boots and the girls wanted us to get the bore hole working!

Then it rained – the first rains of the year – and did it rain! This was a treat and privilege!  The water sat on top of the red earth for ages – not sinking away – giving the impression that this area was just one big lake.

The debrief with staff went on late into the evening with interest in the UK work and on Unified Presence matters.

With the rain, the frogs came out and, as I was told, so did the snakes…. I am not keen on snakes. As a result I did not get much sleep that night in my tent waking up to check to see if anything had crept in.  As you might have guessed everything was fine and no snakes seen.

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