South Sudanese woman wait in line for water during a temporary water shortage in a refugee camp in northern Uganda. UNHCR/F.Noy
In this interview, two former child refugees from Sudan discuss how they are working to provide assistance to the South Sudanese displaced by the deadly conflict that began December 15. Both men have joined four others to form an initiative called the Mal Clinic –“mal” means “peace”–which they envision will provide medical assitance during the crisis.
“Half a million people have been displaced. They need medical attention. They need food and shelter. They need places where they can live,” said Manang Reath, a refugee from age 3-18 who, after finding his way to the United States, founded Humanity Helping Sudan, where he serves as CEO.
Mr. Reath and Ger Duany, a former child solider, are calling on the South Sudanese diaspora to help. “Even though [the diaspora] might be aware by now [of the crisis], they still need to be engaged,” said Mr. Reath. "Many of us here… have contributed a lot to the community—for instance, sending books to schools, shoes, money, and other things that could help.”
Describing the current state of these refugees, Mr. Reath said, “Children are forced to go to United Nations compounds, live there—women give birth inside UN compounds. This is unstable situation…you’re placed in one center and become susceptible to diarrhea, cholera, and all diseases that you might not become infected when staying in your own home. It's a mess.”
As a child, Mr. Reath spent 13 years in a refugee camp on the Sudanese/Ethiopian border. “Living in camps is hard to define because you’re put there to live in one place…The only way you can move is when the UN decides to put you in another camp for security or medical reasons.” He said the camp is also a place where diseases spread easily. “If someone coughs TB, everybody will get sick. And that’s a life in the camp.”
Ger Duany, who was forcefully recruited as a child soldier before making his way to a refugee camp in Ethiopia, said that child soldiers are still recruited in South Sudan, adding that, “many kids are being lured into it because they have no choice.”
“It is not like they have a process of how to recruit people. The entire area becomes subject to violence. It's not safe, and everybody wants to protect themselves and their families. And I think that's the one thing that lured me into being a child soldier, too,” he said.
Mr. Duany said that international agencies should focus on evacuating South Sudanese refugees all the way to the border, “where they can be safe.”
The interview was conducted by Waleed Alhariri, Research Assistant in the Middle East program at the International Peace Institute.
Waleed Alhariri: Today, I welcome Manang Reath and Ger Duany to the Global Observatory. Manang is a founder and CEO of Humanity Helping Sudan, which provides aid and assistance to the Sudanese diaspora in Ethiopia along the eastern border of South Sudan. Ger is a South Sudanese actor and a model based in the United States. Both Manyang and Ger were refugees for most of their lives, and after coming to the US, they decided to work in providing assistance to refugees, especially those fleeing the current conflict from South Sudan. Thank you for speaking with us today.
Manang, what is the situation like for civilians in South Sudan?
Manang Reath: The situation in South Sudan has escalated to become an ethnic conflict. It did not start like this, and we thought we had enough war. However, as of December 15, we find 15,000 individuals killed and half a million forced to go to bordering countries like Ethiopia and Kenya. Children are forced [by the conflict] to go to United Nations compounds, live there—women give birth inside UN compounds. This is unstable situation…you’re placed in one center and become susceptible to diarrhea, cholera, and all diseases that you might not become infected when staying in your own home. It's a mess.