Sound of Gunfire is “Morning Music” In South Sudan

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Canadian Foodgrains Bank Executive Director Jim Cornelius and Communications Officer Amanda Thorsteinsson are in South Sudan, visiting Foodgrains Bank projects and partners who are responding to the needs of people affected by civil war in that country. This is their second report.
 
JUBA, South Sudan – “Morning music.” That’s what aid workers here in Juba, South Sudan call the  gunfire you can sometimes hear in the early morning hours.
 
When I hear it, I can just turn on my iPod and block it out with music, secure in the knowledge that in a few days I will hop on an airplane and fly home to Canada.
 
But for millions of South Sudanese, blocking out the war with an iPod isn’t an option.
 
For them, the war that has been going on between government and rebel forces has completely disrupted their lives. About a million people have fled their homes to escape the fighting. About four million people are in danger of hunger.
 
Down near the compound where I am staying with Jim Cornelius, Executive Director of Canadian Foodgrains Bank, there used to be a thriving neighbourhood. It was filled with people who led ordinary lives. It was a group of people who lived, worked, sent their children to school.
 
But now those homes are abandoned. It’s a small ghost town.
 
The people who used to live there are now only a few miles away. When fighting came to the city of Juba, they rushed to a nearby United Nations compound for protection.
 
Across South Sudan, many people are in similar situations.  
 
They are living wherever they can. Some of them have gone into the bush, surviving on roots and berries. Some have been able to flee to relatives and friends in other parts of the country, relying on their generosity to survive. Some have fled to neighbouring countries.
 
For many, food is in short supply. The food that is available is too expensive for many people to afford.
 
I went with Jim to the local market in Juba today. We talked to women selling onions and tomatoes, and to traders—men with bags of rice and large trucks of food and other goods.
 
Almost all the food being sold came from outside of South Sudan. The only local food being sold in the market that was actually grown in the country was peanuts.
 
Tomorrow, Jim and I are going up to visit a project site run by Foodgrains Bank member ADRA Canada. People there are receiving food rations to keep them alive until they can go home. It will be the first time that we can talk to people who are receiving food assistance.
 
I want to hear what they have to say. I know that food from the Foodgrains Bank won’t bring an end to the conflict, but at least we can help in some way.
 
And at the end of this visit, Jim and I will go home. We pray that the conflict in this country will end, and that people in South Sudan who fled for their lives will also be able to go home soon, too.
 
— Amanda Thorsteinsson, Canadian Foodgrains Bank Communications Officer.