Editor's note: This is a guest post contributed by Manyang Reath Kher, a South Sudanese activist who was a finalist for VH1’s Do Something Award.
My earliest memories are of war, dead bodies, and of my own uncle saving my life. As a result of Sudan's second civil war, I became a refugee at the age of three. Now, war has come to my home country once again. Once again, refugees are streaming over the border into neighboring Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya.
Refugees cross river seeking safety and shelter in January 2014 (HHPS).
I was one of the 20,000 boys who were displaced and orphaned by the war and later came to be known as Lost Boys. My father was one of the two and a half million people killed during this war and I was separated from my mother and sister. For 13 years, I lived in refugee camps along the Sudanese-Ethiopian borders, where homelessness, hunger, fear, and abuse were part of daily life. At the age of 17, I was brought to the United States where I started Humanity Helping Sudan to improve the lives of Sudanese refugees, and to attempt to battle the problems facing the entire displaced population. Now, my NGO works to help those who are still refugees.
Once across the river, refuguees and displaced still face dire conditions and food insecurity (HHPS).
The current conflict in South Sudan has ended the lives of about ten thousand South Sudanese and the struggle has only just begun for almost a million of displaced persons. As fighting continues, the number of those displaced neighboring countries could well exceed 200,000. Now, the U.N. refugee agency has warned those who have fled against returning home.
Refugee women listen to humanitarian aid worker and prepare for registration (HHSP).
Due to the precarious situation back home, the U.N. is asking all neighboring states to refrain from returning people back to the country. UNHCR's advisory against forced returns to South Sudan will remain effect until security, rule of law, and human rights conditions improve enough to allow for safe and dignified returns. This means that South Sudanese once again are living in limbo.
Refugee women gather firewood and materials to construct houses and begin their lives again (HHSP).
My organization, Humanity Helping Sudan Project, Inc. (HHSP) seeks to provide aid and assistance to the South Sudanese diaspora and refugees in the Ethiopian region of Gambella on the eastern border of South Sudan. Our staff have been working with those displaced by the fighting in South Sudan, and captured these photos from the field.
HHSP addresses the massive food shortage in the region. As a former refugee, I knew that local people simply need tools to take advantage of natural and environmental assets like the Baro River which runs through the heart of the Gambella region in Ethiopia towards South Sudan. Resources are needed to locally purchase and provide fishing nets, chickens or roosters for eggs, food and barter power. There is also a need to repair wells for drinking and cooking water to enable individuals to provide for their families. Most of these materials can be purchased locally, and provide those working as net makers, chicken farmers, and well repair workers with good employment opportunites.
You can follow Manyang's work wtih HHSP on Twitter: @HumanHLP P SudaPrj