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Thursday, July 14, 2011

South Sudan: Peace Comes from the Underground

For those who have been following the story, the establishment of a peaceful post-war Sudan has been a long, uphill struggle. When we chose, a few years ago, to make South Sudan a special focus of our efforts to bring clean water and self-reliance to the poorest people in the world, we knew that complication, struggle, and adversity would be the order of the day.

While the secession of South from North Sudan certainly injects an element of instability into a context that has long been dysfunctional, none of what the Sudanese people are contending with is a surprise to us.

We know now what we have always known: the Sudanese people are trying to sort out a mountain of historical problems, and they need help if they are going to do it with peaceful outcomes.

So there continues to be areas in South Sudan where people are fighting over resources, fighting over what they believe is the destiny of their nation. There continues to be a greater community who are working hard to make peaceful, healthy villages, who simply wants to live without fear - and some of these people get hurt.

In particular, the areas of South Sudan that border the North have been experiencing attacks, and when there are victims, our standard response is not to throw up our hands at the persistence of violence, but to help the people who are hurt. These people, once assisted, can keep up the good work of making peace, of making a South Sudan a good place to live.

After all, that’s our job—to simply help. We always try to be clear about that.

Many of you are aware of our latest appeal to help victims of recent violence in the borderlands and perhaps you have chosen to help us care for the people affected. If so, you should know just how beautifully and well our friends in South Sudan are going to use your gift to help people. It is our job to help, purely and simply, but it certainly encourages us to do all we can when we see how hard the Sudanese people work to respond compassionately and intelligently to these incidents.

Earlier this year, when people had to flee from a village called Bahamani that was attacked by Northern Sudanese militias, we were very moved by the way in which local people from surrounding communities volunteered to help with our emergency response. In so many places, the distribution of aid can become an ugly thing, with disorganized aid workers unsuccessfully managing crowds of desperate and violent victims. We have none of this in South Sudan. Our friends here form volunteer committees that count the families correctly, distribute the food, shelter materials, and medicines properly and peacefully, and even go the extra mile to ensure that households that are headed by widows or who have disabled family members get priority status on the distribution lists. These local volunteers make it beyond easy to help those who need it badly.

The South Sudan we know is committed to peace. There is a whole nation within this troubled nation that is more devoted than ever to health, safety, and self-reliance. We will always help this South Sudan.

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