The champions : faces behind Oxfam’s Cholera response in South Sudan

Since the beginning of the outbreak in Juba, Oxfam has worked to contain the disease by focusing its response on improving access to clean water and sanitation for affected communities. We are also working with Community Health Promoters to spread messages about good hygiene practices including hand washing and cleaning of water storage facilities. This is only possible because of our team of dedicated humanitarians. Here are their stories.

Kenyi Alison — Team Leader

“I am from Kajo Keji, in Eastern Equatoria, and working in Juba. My background is in Public Health. Once I graduated from university, I became part of the Sudan Radio Service and hosted a program about health matters and preventions. Seven years ago, I joined Oxfam. Since then, I have been working in emergency responses, providing food, water, health and anything else to those affected by disaster.”

“I have seen a lot in the past seven years in South Sudan, and things are getting worse. As a humanitarian, our major concern now is gaining access to locations where people need our help. In some areas, we even have to swim to reach them.”

“Working on this cholera response is an opportunity to make a difference. South Sudanese people are aware of the risks of this disease, but unfortunately, they don’t have the resources to prevent it. The conflict and economic crisis in the country has made people loose a lot of property. I have seen an entire families sharing a small water container between themselves.”

“Oxfam is working closely with community leaders to identify the most important issues. We can’t go everywhere and cover all the needs in South Sudan, but we have identified the most vulnerable people to help first and, at the same time, involve many other organizations that can make this impact bigger. At the end of the day, we can see happy faces after our contribution. This is makes our work meaningful, but all our efforts won’t make any sense if security and peace don’t come to South Sudan for once.”

Patricia Philip — Public Health officer

“I grew up in a rural area near Wau, in Northern Bahr El Ghazal, with two brothers and six sisters. My father encouraged us to finish our studies and to become important people in the future. We followed his advice and we are all now graduates: lawyers, economists and doctors.”

“I studied community and rural development in Khartoum for three years and immediately came back to Juba because I am South Sudanese and I feel the need to contribute to the development of my country.”

“I joined Oxfam February 2016 after I heard about their plan to response to the cholera outbreak in Juba. Everybody knows Oxfam because it is present in many places around the country. It reaches areas where others can’t. One such case is Gondokoro Island, where many people don’t receive any support because of it’s difficult to access. We tried and managed to provide support. Many communities appreciate Oxfam’s work in South Sudan and approach us often when in need.”

Angelina Amosa — Community volunteer

“This is the first time I have participated in such a campaign after graduating in Public Health and Environment at university. I want to specialize in maternity issues and make a difference in my community and my country.”

“I our campaigns, we try to give as much information as possible to stop diseases such cholera from spreading. I am very optimistic that it is working, because of the positive feedback we have received from the community. After this campaign, we expect positive changes in the near future.”

“In Juba, there is no proper disposal of garbage, or access to clean water. People are forced to use dirty river or rainwater because they do not have enough money to buy tablets to treat it. This is why it is very important that organisations like Oxfam need to keep distributing hygiene kits with soap, buckets and treatment tablets to the most vulnerable families.”

Timon Michael — Community volunteer

“I already finished secondary school and I’m trying to save money to go to university, where I want to study Economics and Theology. I would like to become a bank manager in the future.”

“I joined the volunteer team two years ago to help my brothers and sisters in Juba and I really enjoy it. In my community we say, ‘If you love your people, you love yourself.’ So I apply it.”

“My experience as an actor allows me to convey messages in a more enjoyable and entertaining way. I think people learn more from what they see than from what they hear, so I try to communicate with my entire body, rather than with words.”

“It’s very important to spread awareness on good hygienic practices in South Sudan, especially in Juba city, where we have a huge gap. We need to take more action to keep our environment clean.”

“I have great hopes for this country. I am sure after few years of such work, Cholera outbreaks will be reduce in the future.”

Stephen Mawadri — Public health team member

“I am from Pageri in Eastern Equatoria. I spent my early years working in the private sector, for companies based in South Sudan.”

“In 2014, I joined Oxfam to repair and rehabilitate boreholes and run water quality tests in urban and rural areas across the country. Jumping from the private sector to the humanitarian world was a great choice because it gave me the opportunity to support my own community.”

“In the last two years, I have seen many changes and I can tell that access to water has improved. Our work is allowing people to stop drinking water from the river or the rain. We work with many other organisations to identify the gaps and improve people’s access to safe water. Water is life and, but at the same time, it’s very expensive. People can’t afford good quality water and it’s in our hands to make it possible.”

“Although people are much happier with what we are doing, I’m afraid we still have a long way to go.”

Florence Namaru — Food security officer

“I was born and raised in Yambio, Western Equatoria. I have been working in food security with Oxfam for the past two years, but when I heard that my colleagues in the public health unit needed support in responding to the cholera outbreak in Juba, I immediately offered my time. My aim is working for the community, either on food security or public health. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing.”

“The recent fighting in Juba in July 2016 cost people their property and many families don’t have now much to move on. That’s why humanitarian aid is so important — we need to help our communities and prevent outbreaks of cholera and other diseases.”

“What is happening in my country is sad, and I’m nearly hopeless, but I keep working to make a difference and try to build a better future for the coming generations. I really hope we as South Sudanese people will overcome these difficult times.”

Cecilia Marawa — Public health officer

“When I was a child in Mundri, I was separated from my father who was in Juba when the war between Sudan and South Sudan started. Because of this, I had to stop going to school and was forced to find a job to support my family. I worked repairing generators and vehicles when I was just 16 years old.”

“In 1999, I had the very good opportunity to join Oxfam for the first time and since then I have been travelling around different states in South Sudan, working in public health. I not only got the opportunity to develop professionally, but also to resume my studies and finally receive my diploma in Community Development.”

“I keep trying to improve all the time, not only for myself, but also for the sake of my community.”

“I admit it’s hard sometimes to keep people aware about the risks of drinking contaminated water, but also to change harmful traditions that have persisted in our country. In the end, development and lifesaving only comes from the willingness of the community, and this will take time.”

Kenneth William — Community volunteer

“I used to teach in a school in my hometown Maridi, in Western Equatoria, but three years ago I lost my job due to lack of funding in the schools. I moved to Juba to look for other opportunities. I haven’t succeeded yet but want to keep active and help my community.”

“I have participated in the cholera response for the past three years and I can progress. I can tell the community is more aware than before.”

“On 31 July, just few weeks after the last fighting in Juba, I went to visit a relative in the hospital. I spent a few hours there and I ate some food and drink tea from the hospital cooks. But I remember I didn’t have soap to wash my hands and, later at night, I started feeling bad symptoms. The first night it was only diarrhea, but the following day I started vomiting and the doctors diagnosed me with cholera. I spent five days recovering in the hospital and it was a very painful process. However, that experience is helping me better explain the effects of the disease and cholera prevention to people.”

With support from European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), Oxfam has reached over 20,000 people in Juba with Cholera prevention and treatment messaging and improved access to clean water and sanitation.

All photos by Albert Gonzalez Farran/Oxfam.