International Rescue Committee (IRC)

The IRC in Southern Sudan

Southern Sudan is one of the poorest and least developed places on earth. Millions of its people are dependent on food aid, malnutrition is rampant, and less than half the population has access to clean water. The semi-autonomous region has made little progress since 2005, when a landmark peace accord ended decades of civil war with the Sudanese government based in the north. The long-running conflict killed more than two million people and displaced millions more. Much of Southern Sudan’s social and economic infrastructure was left in ruins.  <br /><br /><em>Photo: Christopher Scott/The IRC</em><br /><br />
Now political tensions are again rising ahead of a referendum scheduled for January 2011. Voters in Southern Sudan will be asked to decide whether they want the south to secede formally from Sudan. Neutral observers say it’s crucial that there be a free election whose results are accepted by both the north and the south. Otherwise, a return to widespread conflict would be a disaster for an already beleaguered people. <br /><br /><em>Photo: Christopher Scott/The IRC</em><br /><br />
The IRC has been working in Southern Sudan for over two decades, helping to reduce violence and rebuild communities. Today, the IRC aids more than 600,000 people across the region.<br /><br /><em>Photo: Christopher Scott/The IRC</em><br /><br />
Most Southern Sudanese have little or no access to health care and must travel long distances to find treatment. In an effort to meet the overwhelming demand, the IRC operates 23 health clinics throughout the region. In 2009, these clinics treated over 300,000 people. This couple sought medical attention for their child at an IRC-sponsored clinic on the outskirts of Aweil. <br /><br /><em>Photo: Christopher Scott/The IRC</em><br /><br />
The IRC's Institute for Community Health Workers in Ganyliel trains dozens of medical workers and advocates who every year spread out across the region to help those in need. At the clinic near Aweil, this pharmacist dispenses medicine to sick patients. <br /><br /><em>Photo: Christopher Scott/The IRC</em><br /><br />
Women in Southern Sudan suffer from terrible health conditions. Ninety percent of all births are unattended and maternal mortality levels are among the highest in the world. The IRC runs “safe motherhood” programs for pregnant women and new mothers and provides prenatal care and training in safe delivery. This mother and her baby are resting at an IRC-sponsored clinic in Malulakon. <br /><br /><em>Photo: Christopher Scott/The IRC</em><br /><br />
Sexual violence against women and girls is widespread, although often hidden and ignored. In the city of Rumbek, the IRC is supporting community groups where women can speak out through songs, drama and discussion.  “We talk about violence, early marriage and why girls are forced to drop out of school,” one group member explains.  “We say these things should be stopped.”<br /><br /><em>Photo: Christopher Scott/The IRC</em><br /><br />
Children are especially scarred by poverty and the legacy of a war that destroyed many schools. In Bahr el Ghazal, the IRC works with the community to raise awareness about children’s needs and the importance of education.  Many children in Bahr el Ghazal do not get enough to eat at home and hang out in the public market to see what morsels they can find. <br /><br /><em>Photo: Christopher Scott/The IRC</em><br /><br />
Following the 2005 peace accord, more than two million uprooted people returned to Southern Sudan. To help them rebuild their lives, the IRC offers support in everything from health care and psychological counseling to job training and education. “Economic progress will take time but I feel things are getting better,” says John Akot, an IRC field manager. Akot fled to Ethiopia as a teenager to escape the conflict. “I’m optimistic,” he says. “All those who died during the war won’t get the chance, but I am lucky that I will get to see our country develop.” <br /><br /><em>Photo: Christopher Scott/The IRC</em><br /><br />
In 2009, photojournalist Christopher Scott traveled throughout Southern Sudan as a volunteer to document the IRC’s work. “Sudan is a difficult place to raise a family," Scott says. “But the people exhibit an intense determination and pride. These mothers and their children are sitting outside the IRC clinic in Malualkon. One can see from the strength in their faces that given the opportunity the future generations of Sudan could flourish."  (Updated January 5, 2011)<br /><br /><em>Photo: Christopher Scott/The IRC</em><br /><br />
Photo: Christopher Scott/The IRC

The IRC has been working in Southern Sudan for over two decades, helping to reduce violence and rebuild communities. Today, the IRC aids more than 600,000 people across the region -- one of the poorest and least developed places on earth.