By Katy Griffin
Friday, August 3, 2012
Honiton woman visits South Sudan to see first-hand the conditions and problems faced by those living in the newly independent country.
One in nine children die before the age of five in South Sudan - one of the highest child death rates in the world.
Those are the shocking statistics revealed by Honiton woman Deborah Underdown, who recently visited the country with Care International.
“It is a very poor country. Being newly independent, there is so much that needs to be done - the infrastructure there is very limited and they have under 10 hospitals in the whole country,” she says.
“I’ve never seen people living in such a dire situation.”
Deborah, who is a press officer for the charity, said 800,000 people are in need of emergency assistance including medical care and clean water in South Sudan.
It is estimated that only 25 per cent of people in the country have access to health care services.
However, Deborah fears the situation could get worse as the country enters its rainy season.
She says there has already been a rise in waterborne diseases.
“What struck me was there was no escape from it. We have all this rain in this country but at least we can shut the door and be safe. People there are living with it up to their ankles in mud and children getting sick,” adds Deborah.
She describes meeting a mother-of-five and her family, who were living in a makeshift shelter with ten other people and one bed. Her seven-month-old daughter had died of malaria - all she wanted was a mosquito net.
“Seeing the children covered in mud and putting their hands in their mouths, I thought ‘Don’t do that you are going to be sick’.”
Deborah told the Midweek Herald that the country could potentially get cut off as a result of the rain and travel on the roads becomes very difficult.
On her visit she also travelled to a refugee camp where she met people returning to South Sudan as well as those fleeing from conflict in other parts of the world.
Just over 400,000 people have returned to the country.
The charity is making sure the country has enough medicines, adequate housing and access to clean water and other supplies.
A medical facility was also set up providing treatment and immunizing children against polio, tuberculosis and measles.
“With the situation we need more money so we can do more. There are so many places in crisis - there is a lot of need,” adds Deborah.
“The money people give can actually save someone’s life. It could immunise a child against diseases, give mosquito nets so a child doesn’t die of malaria. Real things money can buy mean a child does not die.”
For more information about Care International visit www.careinternational.org.uk