Monday, November 14, 2011

Here I am in South Sudan

Juba, South Sudan. The World’s Newest County.

I am now in Juba, capital of the brand new county of South Sudan. I have been to Africa many times before, but even for me Juba is a real eye opener.

This is not the Africa of luxury game resorts, sundowners around the pool, leafy suburbs. This Africa is harsh, friendly, raw and new. South Sudan got its independence in July from Sudan after a long and brutal civil war. The county is essentially starting from scratch and there are a lot of people here determined to see it succeed.

Juba, the capital, has pretty much nothing in the way of buildings higher than two stories, or buildings at all, come to think of it. Lots of tin or mud shacks. There are no Western amenities here. I haven’t seen a McDonalds or a Quality Inn. In fact, come to think of it, I haven’t seen a single recognizable Western brand at all. The roads in the center of the city are paved, but a chaos of scooters, cars, trucks, 4 wheel drive, bicycles, pedestrians, goats and chickens and the odd big-horned cow. Bad enough, but my daughter drives a right-hand drive car – on right hand drive roads! (Neighbouring Kenya is left-hand drive, but South Sudan is right).

I was exceptionally lucky to be allowed to accompany my daughter out in the field. We left Sunday afternoon in a convoy of two 4*4s to the town of Yei. (Pronounced YEAH) where we were to meet community health workers. Malaria is the number one killer of children under 5 and my daughter was taken to see promising initiative of local villagers who are trained to recognize and treat malaria. They are hoping to expand the initiative to include other diseases.

Go a few kilometers from Juba city centre and the pavement ends. Think you’ve driven on unpaved roads? Think again. On Sunday we drove the approx.. 160 KM (about 100 miles) from Juba to Yei. It took 4.5 hours. And was I tried – it’s tough just holding on! I announced that I’d like to stop at the next Tim Hortons. Ha Ha. There ain’t nothing in the way of facilities – not even a bathroom never mind a coffee shop. Nevertheless in Yei we went to dinner at an acceptable restaurant and the guest house we stayed at was clean and comfortable although basic.

It is surprisingly dry here in Juba, but at Yei it is much greener and lusher.
Monday we left the main road at Yei to head into the bush. Good thing we were in 4*4s. Nothing else would have made it. At times the water was up to the top of the vehicle’s tires. The reason they have to travel in convoy – so one truck can pull another out if necessary.

I greatly enjoyed the visit to the village (a collection of mud and straw huts in the midst of a very prosperous looking corn field) to meet the village health worker. We then went to the medical clinic. Basic is the word, but it was very busy with women and their babies. They are trying hard to deliver antenatal care and assisted childbirth as well as basic health care for children. Not easy in the bush. A baby goat wandered in to check us out.
Then it was the loooong drive back to Juba – more bumping and holding on. We went to a small farewell dinner for a colleague of my daughter.

Today is my birthday! We’re going to dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Nile. I’m quite excited; I haven’t seen the Nile yet.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you are keeping this journal, Vicki. We can ride along with you, because your words always bring me right into the action as though I were experiencing it too.