South Sudan: A hopeful—yet uncertain—future

Refugees return to their homeland in South Sudan.

A country claiming its independence after 21 years of war, with 2.5 million dead, is a courageous undertaking. South Sudan made the one-year mark of its independence—but what’s ahead?


“A year ago it was the newest nation in the world,” said Keith Wright, Food for the Hungry’s international president. “The South Sudanese were very optimistic.  Now there’s a concern about what the future holds.”


Many of South Sudan’s communities are in shambles after the war. Keith, who visited South Sudan recently and during the war, talked about how life has changed. However, the country still faces many challenges.


During the war, Keith described life as “sleeping with a quick run kit. You had what you needed to survive for three days (in case of an evacuation), such as shoes, map to nearest airstrip, and a water jug. There were fox holes outside of each of our huts.”


With so much upheaval, many South Sudanese had to forgo their education and communities to survive. Now 600,000 refugees are returning home. “Refugees are coming back in who have grown up in refugee camps with three squares a day and a tent, alongside people who haven’t had drinking water or education,” said Keith.

These differences cause conflicts within a group of people that desperately needs to work together to survive.

In the Upper Nile, region between South Sudan and Sudan, where Food for the Hungry works—establishing communities is difficult with people who have survived in such differing conditions.

It’s also a dangerous area, but FH chose to work there because, “there was a gap, no one else was responding,” said Keith.


In addition to helping with basic needs, FH is focusing on education. FH staff are teaching South Sudanese to build up their communities and pursue an education. “It’s an opportunity to meet basic needs, but also helping rebuild the newest country in the world through education,” said Keith. “Seeing 15-year-old kids sitting down in school for the first time in their lives was pretty moving. It was the first time in two decades they had a school. Some of the kids were ex-combatants.”

For the churches, Keith said many of South Sudan pastors he met recently were semi-literate, with no Bible training. In an Upper Nile Presbyterian church with a grass roof and hardened mud benches in 130 degrees—FH conducted basic Bible training. Keith’s church in Virginia contributed bibles in local language. “The pastors we met were brought up to be spiritual leaders, but didn’t have the knowledge to be learning,” said Keith.


As education is important, it’s not the only lesson the South Sudanese need to learn to prosper. Keith says for the country to succeed, they need hope. “It’s not just about arithmetic and language, it’s about values and hope,” said Keith. “Bottom line, we’re hoping for better days. We’ve been building up to that, to help the people of South Sudan.”


Our thoughts and prayers are with South Sudan as they enter their second year as a country.  Whatever happens, FH is committed to walking with this country. Please consider partnering with us to help these people build their country.




About Renee Targos

Renee is a former journalist and editor for national arts and business publications. As a writer for Food for the Hungry, Renee explores and reports on the work and relationships of partners, FH staff and impoverished communities.

, , , ,