South Sudan: We won’t give up on you

Fred McCray
CARE staff at Bentiu Protection of Civilians camp, where tens of thousands of people have sought shelter and safety from the conflict in South Sudan

To mark World Humanitarian Day 2016, Fred McCray, CARE Country Director in South Sudan, reflects on the courage and commitment of CARE’s humanitarian staff

In all my 16 years as a humanitarian aid worker, I have never seen anything like the violence that besieged Juba, South Sudan, last month.

It started on a Thursday night with small-arms gunfire that I thought would end quickly. Little did I know it was merely the start of a bloody five-day battle in the heart of South Sudan’s capital that would result in hundreds of deaths, thousands of newly displaced people and widespread panic throughout the city.

As aid workers, we prepare for moments like this, especially in a country like South Sudan, where the only thing predictable is the unpredictability that each day brings.

Outside the team house, I could hear gunfire, heavy tank artillery and helicopter gunships. I was fearful, not so much for my own safety as for my staff members’.

And it wasn’t just their physical safety that concerned me. I worried about their emotional safety, too, as they endured and navigated the escalating violence.

There’s a saying in South Sudan that “easy things are not easily done”. That couldn’t ring more true.

Aside from the unpredictable bouts of violence, the biggest challenge we face is lack of infrastructure. There’s no power grid, the rainy season renders the roads inaccessible and supplies are limited — all of which obstruct our ability to reach the people most desperately in need.

Yet we must march on. And we will.

Working in a country like South Sudan, you have to be a passionate, dedicated problem-solver, and that’s just what every member of CARE South Sudan is.

The staff’s commitment to the communities we serve keeps me going on those days when I could more easily give up.

When the violence broke out in Juba, the staff in Unity State kept providing treatment to malnourished babies.

Even though there is fighting in Eastern Equatoria, the staff wants to get back to work.

They know the people in these communities, they know the depth of their needs, and they want to honour them by doing everything in their power to meet those needs.

South Sudan is in a time of extreme uncertainty. In spite of that and the suffering they endure, however, the people here do not give up. They inspire me daily. They are survivors who kindle a lasting hope for a peaceful tomorrow.

CARE’s humanitarian work

CARE is bound by its humanitarian mandate to deliver aid where it is needed the most, regardless of race, gender, political affiliation or nationality. We uphold the principle of working independently from any political, military, commercial or religious objectives. We strive to be accepted by the communities, with many of which we have been working for decades.

In conflict situations like that in South Sudan, very often it is a small group of dedicated, mostly local aid workers that stay behind and keep basic services running. They work tirelessly under immense pressure to deliver relief supplies, distribute food, run hospitals or coordinate relief activities.

World Humanitarian Day on August 19 is the day to salute all aid workers around the world on their work. We are humbled by their commitment, their bravery and their will to stay behind and help communities when everyone else has left.

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Fred McCray's picture

Fred McCray is CARE Country Director in South Sudan.