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KADET – Doru Gladys Oliver had only been back in her home country, South Sudan, for two months when fighting erupted. The 20-year-old now works as an enumerator for WFP travelling to hard-to-reach areas to provide assistance to people in need. She tells us her story.
I had barely been back in the country for two months when fighting started in Juba last year. That night I heard sustained guns and explosions. The next morning I realised that my neighbour and four people had been killed. I had not really experienced gunshots in my life as I had grown up in Uganda where my parents had taken me to when I was four years old to escape the civil war between the North and the South (Sudan). I decided to immediately flee back to Uganda.
I wanted to continue my education but I had no money. I really needed a job. So when I heard that the World Food Programme was recruiting people who could go out with its teams to the field in South Sudan, I returned, applied and I was recruited as an enumerator.
When we travel to remote places to assist people in need of food, my job is to register people ahead of food distribution, identify those who are most vulnerable to ensure that they can be quickly assisted, and help in crowd control and food distribution.
The job comes with its challenges. You know most of us (enumerators) are young. Sometimes some of the community leaders try to force us to register people and they threaten to detain us if we don’t follow their instructions. We have to be firm and luckily we have the support of the team leaders and senior WFP staff members who travel with us. But at times it can be scary because you are in the middle of nowhere, in places where there has been fighting which means there are guns around. But generally people are kind.
However, one of the most frightening experiences I have had took place after a distribution in Akobo near the border with Ethiopia. We had stopped briefly at a market and one of my colleagues went to buy plastic bags which we would use during distributions the next day. Suddenly, we saw a crowd of people running away from the direction he had headed to. Next thing we heard were gunshots.
We could not see him as confusion spread around. I broke down in tears and cried. I thought he had been killed. Fortunately, after a while we saw him. He had survived. I don’t know which was worse for me: the days of fighting in Juba or that moment when I felt a colleague had been killed.
I have also been in a canoe that overturned on the River Akobo which separates South Sudan and Ethiopia. We were travelling in the canoe to go and assist two villages which were on the other side of the river. We were four of us in the canoe when it capsized. I swam to the river bank but one of our team mates was not a really good swimmer and he swallowed a lot of water. I don’t want to describe how he felt and how frightened we all were.
Despite all of this, I like the job. It has really allowed me to discover my country. It has given me a full understanding of my country. I have learnt that there are people starving, people living in flooded marshlands, people who can’t harvest crops because of fighting. It may sound funny to some people but I feel better when I am in the field than when the teams are on transit in Juba. Yes, it is difficult staying in tents, sometimes our food only comes two or three days after we have arrived meaning that we have to survive on snacks but I just want to go and help people. These are my people. What will be better is for this war to end. There is just too much suffering out there.