HUBER HEIGHTS — Noel Garrett, a 1993 Wayne High School graduate and a 1997 Bowling Green State University graduate, recently spoke to the Huber Heights Rotary Club on the topic “Imagine No Malaria.” This involved her recent work in South Sudan called the “Sudan Project” with Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church. She has previously worked in missions in Haiti, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Ethiopia.
She said Ginghamsburg Church has been involved in the Sudan since Christmas 2004 with primary work in Darfur, Sudan related to agricultural programs, education, safe water and child development.
Garrett said that in 2011, Sudan divided into two countries and a lot of the people they had been serving in Darfur started moving south into South Sudan and the church began work there. Last year, their malaria project was implemented in Yei County, South Sudan, close to the border of Uganda and the Congo, with the distribution of 30,000 mosquito nets that last for five years. One of the places nets were given out was at a refugee camp. Garrett called this territory “a big malaria area” and said it is the number one killer of children under the age of five and of pregnant women.
She said it is not uncommon for one to three members of families to be afflicted with malaria on a monthly basis “and they just think it is something that you have to live with.” She said this results in the loss of family members and affects the economy of the family and health care as people can’t work or go to school.
“But, it’s actually something that doesn’t have to be the number one killer,” she said, indicating one of the main ways to protect families is the use of mosquito nets. She said they did community based training of volunteers before distributing 30,000 nets. Going house to house, they taught the people what malaria is and where it originates and showed them how to use the net over their sleeping spaces as most people sleep on the floor inside a hut. She said it is not uncommon for two or three children to sleep under one net.
“It’s a fight that I’m glad that we’re a part of because it effects all of the families in this area,” said Garrett.
For others that don’t have nets, they are encouraged to save $10 to invest in this purchase for their families. Garrett said that nets have to be hung outside away from the sleeping space for 24 hours before use as the nets are treated with chemicals.
She said that since South Sudan is four years old, it will take time for the people “to get on their feet” as groups seek to help them fill in the gaps in infrastructure, the economy, healthcare and education over a long period of time.
Garrett said there are no paved roads in the area where she is working and said it is very hard to travel during the rainy season. She said most people who live in huts don’t have running water and traveling to a water source takes significant time for women and older girls, who carry the water on their heads sometimes twice a day.
Garrett said that a lot of the fathers “got lost in the war” so there are many single mothers raising children with very little or no income. She said families in South Sudan are “really struggling” as insecurity and fighting has increased in the last several months.
“Also, the economy has experienced high inflation,” said Garrett. “So now, the prices in the market are two or three times higher than what it normally was before, so people cannot afford to buy basic necessities including food.”
She said that when she asked mothers how they keep going, their response was that they wanted a better future for their children.
“They’re just trying to survive,” said Garrett. “They’ve really been traumatized as people with all the years of war, but now they’re traumatized daily from all of the different challenges they face.”
Garrett said the land is very fertile in South Sudan, and if they could create an infrastructure to support their agriculture, it could be the backbone of the country.
Garrett said families often can’t afford to send all of their children to school, so they have to decide which ones can go. She also indicated that there is a lack of educated teachers as well as a lack of materials for schools.
Despite all the challenges, there is hope that as Ginghamsburg Church and others come alongside the South Sudanese and work together, change will come and they will be able in the future to stand on their own. According to Garrett, more partners and much prayer is needed for the world’s newest country.
For information about Ginghamsburg’s Sudan project, go to thesudanproject.org.
Reach Greg Smart at 937-236-4990, ext. 2542 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.com