“If you don't understand the situation in which you're providing assistance, you run the risk of breaching the principle of "first do no harm"“
-Sarah Vuylsteke, former deputy head of access, WFP
CEDASS is into the second decade of working in South Sudan, the Jebal Lado region. After a book full of learning mistakes, we still question, did we do it right? We are in their country, but are people treated fair and how much has to be given? I go back to recent comment by Sarah Vuylsteke. Do I understand the situation? Am I causing harm? Hoping you will all comment and guide me.
The garden area was busily being planted by students, teachers and the CEDASS team this month. After clearing the school grounds and the garden area of thorn bushes, leveling the area, picking up roots and branches, then tilling the soil, the area was finally ready to plant. The planting was well under way after receiving the much needed spring rains. We are leaving the program with the school heads to lead the planting drive. We will be able to see where help may be needed in the future.
We have close to equal numbers of boys and girls starting school, but we are not seeing equal numbers of boys and girl in the higher primary grades. As we ask, "where have all the girls gone?" the teaching staff updates us. We are told that when the girls come of age that their periods start, then girls quit school. How can we change this?
They do not have access to sanitary pads and often undergo parental pressure to get married. After a discussion with teachers and the medical team, it has been suggested that a washable pad is most favorable, due to lack of a good way to dispose of the disposable pads. The teachers suggested we purchase two hundred pads for fifty girls, but then suggested we supply nickers - underwear also.
As you have heard or read, there is wide spread famine in South Sudan. There have been recent news articles, talking of the continued wide spread famine. We see and hear of it first hand, in the city and out in the villages.
We have taken 70 bikes to the school for the children to ride, but we have been denied more land to expand the school garden area, because we did not give each of the 23 chiefs and associates a bike. We only offered them the opportunity to use a bike and return it to the school.
Do we understand the situation of the aid we are wanting to provide and are we causing harm?
-Stu McCutcheon of CEDASS