A safe place to graze
by Marysia Zapasnik
The most vulnerable members of any community are often the children. This is especially true in South Sudan, where children as young as three walk around unaccompanied in bushy areas that can be contaminated with explosive remnants of war. Children as young as six are often given the chore of grazing animals.
Today we met 11 year old Nassir and his two baby goats Leben (milk) and Chorba (soup). He was wandering about the bushy wasteland on the outskirts of an IDP camp near the border with the Sudan. People use that wasteland to bury their dead, graze their animals, defecate and collect grass for their shelters. Unexploded ordnance (UXO) has been reported there.
We explained the dangers to Nassir and asked if he could perhaps find another area to graze his goats. He explained that his family had only just returned to South Sudan from the north. He did not know where else to go with his goats and was worried the local host community would chase him away from another area.
We organised a meeting with the local host authorities and the camp representatives. It was agreed that children could graze their animals on the wasteland the other side of the camp, where there had been no reports of dangers.
Now Nassir, and all the other children in the Abayok camp can carry out their daily chores of grazing animals in a much safer way.
Better safe than sorry
by Marysia Zapasnik
We travelled north seven hours by road and arrived in another camp. After the Risk Education session, twelve year old Susan came up to us.
“Excuse me, I have seen one of those bad things by my grandmother’s shelter,” she said in a quiet voice.
We showed her the pictures of mines and UXO again, and asked her to point to the item that she had seen. Confidently, and without hesitation, she pointed to an anti-tank mine. She took us close to the grass hut in which she was staying with her grandmother and pointed at a metal object only just poking out of the ground. It was about the size of dinner plate. It really did look like an anti-tank mine, so we immediately evacuated the area.
However, after careful inspection from a safe viewing point, we concluded the item was just a piece of scrap metal. We told everyone they could return to their shelters as the area was safe, and we thanked Susan for her excellent observation and reporting skills.
“I reported the item because these people [MAG] told me about all the bad things mines can do to us,” explained Susan. “I wanted to protect my grandmother. She is the only family I have, she looks after me and I look after her.”
We left the area with a very scary thought: if a piece of scrap metal can look almost exactly like a mine, so a mine can look almost exactly like a piece of scrap metal. In a resource poor country like South Sudan, people often pick up any piece of scrap they can, hoping to make it into something useful. These people truly are at risk.