SPECIAL NOTE: On this World Refugee Day, we recognize the struggle faced by some 40 million people in many places in the world where ACT members are supporting such communities. We mark the day by sharing with you a story of rebuilding from south Sudan, where returning refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are finding a new sense of community and purpose.
By Karen Ressel, ACT International
Longairo, South Sudan. June 19, 2007. Five months ago, Lino Lokwkawa and his family came out of hiding from the mountains. They had fled to escape the violence during the 20-year civil war in south Sudan. Now, the Lokwkawa family and others have begun returning home to Ikotos County in Eastern Equatoria and are re-establishing their lives in the village of Longairo.
In the midst of the rebuilding work, one of the greatest strains on the returning internally displaced person (IDP) and refugee families has been the lack of safe water. People had to retrieve water from unreliable sources during the dry season and some of the sources were not safe for drinking or dried up completely. In response to the situation, ACT member, Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Uganda/Sudan drilled a borehole and established a water yard for the village of Longairo.
LWF is currently working through a larger ACT appeal with plans to impact close to 30,000 people in Ikotos County by the end of 2007. LWF also plans to drill ten new boreholes and to rehabilitate ten existing ones in the area. All of the water projects are being implemented in ways that empower the local communities through the establishing of water committees with training in pump mechanics and hygiene promotion.
The work of LWF in Longairo has resulted in a much healthier community and the time that used to be spent searching for water is now being used for farming and other household chores. The community itself is mostly made up of farmers who cultivate a diversity of crops including potatoes, cassava, sorghum, onions, cabbage and maize.
As life improves, the number of people returning to the village continues to grow, which they feel is a healthy sign for the community. And as new people arrive, the village does its best to welcome them back to the lives they once knew.
Mr. Lokwkawa, who is also the spokesperson for the village, says that they offer the new families food and invite them to join the farming work in the fields. At times when they have little or no food to offer new returnees, Mr. Lokwkawa says it can be hard to find the strength to continue working, but they do the best they can to encourage each other.
Joining with that deep sense of community and shared life already found in Longairo, LWF has provided agriculture support through the distribution of seeds and tools to these new families. By the end of the year, LWF is planning to support close to 4,000 families in Ikotos County through self-sustaining agriculture projects.
The assistance being provided by LWF has enabled the Lokwkawa family, the people of Longairo and the wider region to look forward to the harvest ahead, accomplishing a hopeful step in the larger rebuilding and reconstruction work in south Sudan.
LWF is a member of Action by Churches Together (ACT) International. ACT International is a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide.
Karen Ressel is a volunteer with Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Uganda/Sudan and is from ACT member, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
For further information, please contact:
ACT Communications Officer
Callie Long (office: +41 22 791 6039 / mobile: +41 79 358 3171)
ACT Assistant Communications Officer
Sidney Traynham (office: +41 22 791 6711 / mobile: +41 79 681 1868)