S. Sudan's elderly resort to quarry work to get by

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced in fighting between the two rivals, leading to an increasingly dire humanitarian situation for much of the population

S. Sudan's elderly resort to quarry work to get by

World Bulletin/News Desk

Every morning, Rosa Dario Achuil wakes up to collect loose stones from the hills of Juba's Jebel suburb.

The 60-year-old then crushes the stones into smaller particles and heaps them into small mounds on the roadside in the hope that a builder will buy them.

"I cannot go and steal. Stealing is bad," Achuil told The Anadolu Agency.

"If God brings someone to buy the stones, even for two South Sudanese pounds, I can buy bread, eat it and drink water," she said.

Achuil fled Duk County in Jonglei State following the eruption of violence in South Sudan one year ago.

Accompanied by her two grandchildren, the elderly woman found her way to capital Juba in April in hopes of finding help.  

"I first went to Bor from my home in Duk, where I wanted to go to the [refugee] camp," Achuil said. "There, I found there was no way for me to get assistance – so when I saw people going to Juba, I joined them."

Arriving in Juba, Achuil's hopes of finding a refugee camp in Juba vanished. Instead, she ended up at a small, makeshift house in Jebel in Juba's hilly suburbs.

"I could not go to the camp," Achuil, who hails from the Dinka tribe, said, noting that most of South Sudan's internally-displaced persons (IDPs) were from the Nuer tribe.

"So I found myself doing this," she added.

Finding no other way to eke out a living, she began crushing stones to earn some money.

"This is a difficult situation; you cannot do it if you have someone like your son working in the government who can bring you something to eat," she lamented.

South Sudan has been shaken by violence since December of last year, when President Salva Kiir accused Riek Machar, his sacked vice president, of plotting to overthrow his regime.

Hundreds of thousands of people have since been displaced in fighting between the two rivals, leading to an increasingly dire humanitarian situation for much of the population.

In recent months, the warring camps have held on-again, off-again peace talks in Addis Ababa under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a Djibouti-based East African regional bloc.

Difficult life

Like Achuil, Margret Saturlino, 52, is also crushing stones to make a living in the war-battered country.

"You can see my foot is swollen. It was hit by a stone in the crushing process," the widow told AA. "I cannot sleep at night; my body is in pain."

"When I need water, I have to buy; when I need food, I have to look for money. Where can I get the money?" Saturlino wondered.

Saturlino had been selling vegetables in Malakal city when the violence broke out one year ago. In February, she fled to Juba.

Saturlino says tribalism and favoritism have aggravated the suffering of IDPs, pointing to what she describes as unfair discrimination in the selection of what IDPs are assisted in Juba.

She says she was educated while in Sudan and has documents that she says are "redundant."

"I have my documents, but if you do not have someone close to you working in the government, you cannot get a job," she said.

In an effort to help displaced elderly people find decent jobs, the South Sudan Old Peoples' Organization (SSOPO), an NGO, is training IDPs in skills like cooking and knitting.

"The aged cannot do heavy work, so there is a need to empower them with skills in light work, which can earn them a living," SSOPO Chairperson Marceline Denya told AA.

"We have been identifying many of the aged people who have been affected by the war, including those in the IDP camps. We train them in cooking and knitting so they can stand on their own without much labor," she said, adding that her NGO had so far trained 308 people.

Regina Ossa Lullo of the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, said the plight of the elderly was not a new phenomenon in South Sudan.

"The situation of aged people is something the ministry has been looking into," Lullo told AA.

"The ministry has drafted a social protection policy that will provide support to the aged, to children under five, as well as to women," she said.

"Once it is passed by parliament and the government gets money, the project will be rolled out in all the states [of South Sudan]," she added.

According to Lullo, the proposed policy will soon be presented by the ministry to the council of ministers for approval before being taken to parliament.

AA

Last Mod: 04 Aralık 2014, 12:24
Add Comment