South Sudan is a large country located in north-east Africa. It is bordered by five countries: Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic. South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011. A civil war, lasting five years, broke out in 2013. It is estimated that 2.3 million people fled the country and another 1.8 million were displaced within the country.
Women and children are a very large part of those that have fled South Sudan. This very large group includes survivors of violent attacks and sexual assaults, children who have been separated from their parents or travel alone, the disabled, the elderly and people in need of urgent medical care. South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, has now joined Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia as countries that have produced more than one million refugees.
In South Sudan 83 percent of the population live in rural areas. Poverty is endemic with at least 80 percent of the population defined as income-poor and living on the equivalent of less than one dollar per day. More than one-third of the population lacks secure access to food.
There has been a Salesian Community in Gumbo since 2008. Gumbo is located in the middle of 20 villages along the left bank of the river Nile. On the right bank is the town of Juba, the capital city. Salesian missionaries in South Sudan, who are from Asia and East Africa, provide primary and secondary education, giving special attention to the education of girls and women. They run youth centres, work in parishes, and provide various programmes for sharing the Word of God.
The Salesian centre has a refugee camp which facilitates 15,000 people. A health clinic was started in the refugee camp in 2012. A mobile clinic visits outlying regions.
The most common sicknesses are malaria, enteric fever, diarrhoea, brucellosis, skin diseases, urinary infections and malnutrition. All these diseases are due to poverty, lack of hygiene and sanitation. People walk long distances to get clean water.
Covid-19 has presented enormous challenges. There were only two laboratories to do the testing, there are too few health care professionals and most of the people lack an understanding of the covid pandemic and its seriousness.
The clinic is giving extraordinary service to the people of South Sudan. It is dependent on the support of generous people from different countries. The Salesian missionaries hope to build a better medical centre but they need our help.
During Salesian Mission week, 3rd to 10th October, we aim to raise awareness about Salesian missionary work in South Sudan, and, in particular, the great need for adequate health care.
The theme for Salesian Mission Week is One Father, One Family. It is an invitation to live in solidarity, accepting that we are all one family where everybody receives appropriate care and assistance.
Pope Francis reminds us that our world is a global village, and we are all interconnected. For the Pope solidarity is about creating a new mindset which ensures that there is enough for all, and that everybody is safe and cherished. Missionary solidarity is about enabling all to flourish, which presents an enormous challenge.
Salesian missionary solidarity strives to promote initiatives that help the poor, enabling them to take responsibility for their own development and wellbeing. Salesian Mission Week invites everybody to contribute in any way possible to enable the people of South Sudan to provide health care for the sick and unwell.
Salesian Mission Week is a faith response giving support to God’s suffering people. Let us pray for the people of South Sudan, asking the Lord to bless them with peace, hope and a future. We can pray also for our own needs or simply say ‘thanks’ to God for our blessings.
Tell others – family, friends, and neighbours – about the South Sudan story. Invite them to be part of the response.
If you are in a position to support the development of the medical centre in Gumbo financially, or can work with others to make a contribution, this will be greatly appreciated.
Whatever way you join us in solidarity with the Salesian missionaries in South Sudan and the people they minister to, will be greatly appreciated.
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