South Sudan is the newest country in the world, and will be 2 years old in a couple of weeks. As everyone knows South Sudan came into existence after a referendum in the south of “old” Sudan and a huge majority voted for independence from the north, which is still called Sudan. There’s a long history of violent civil and intertribal war which continues sporadically even now, but in parts of South Sudan and Sudan itself which are quite remote from Aweil. However there is a legacy of this prolonged violence that lingers even here, firstly I am told by a general state of post traumatic stress, a wariness and hesitancy about engagement with all but your own. This explanation certainly made sense to me, because it is hard to get a smile from anyone, life seems to be pursued with a grim and self contained determination, and joy seems in short supply, even among children. Whereas a walk from the hospital in Ethiopia inevitably attracted throngs of kids who would call out and come running, here they watch silently as you pass. In Ethiopia it was possible to engage with patients and their carers but here that seems less common. – we do good, I am sure they know it and appreciate it but there is little in the way of feedback. This is my impression after only a week, so it may change as I get to know and understand their ways better, and perhaps, they, mine.
A further legacy of the wars is a nighttime curfew in the town from 11pm to 7am. There is an MSF rule that after 7pm we are not allowed out of the compound except for work related activity, and we area not to walk anywhere but use a car and driver. If we need to go to the hospital during curfew the ambulance has to activate the flashing light.
A final reminder that security remains a major issue in the country is the prohibition on Photography, and is the one that affects and annoys me most. How strictly such a requirement is enforced I couldn’t say, but I took a few pictures in Juba, and when I arrived here , and nobody seemed to object. However at my first briefing in Aweil it was made very clear that I am not here as a Tourist but as a representative of MSF, and taking photos in the streets and of people and scenes generally, let alone of public buildings or military or policing subjects, was simply forbidden. There were one or two photos on file in the Office Computer that I could use, and of course I could take photos within the compound or, with the permission of the subjects, of work related activity, but my habit of always having the camera in one pocket has had to be scrapped. I will post what photos I can but sadly many scenes, colors faces and events that I witness will have to be recorded in my head and nowhere else.