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It's worth it, Canadian aid worker shares experiences from South Sudan

By Layal Horanieh, a Canadian aid worker with the ICRC who was in South Sudan for 18 months

Layal Horanieh, a Canadian aid worker with the ICRC who was in South Sudan for 18 months“Wintery mix” weather forecasts. Icy road conditions. Christmas shopping rush. Public transportation delays. Rising grocery prices... It all sounds like home to me and I’ve dearly missed it here! I’m catching up with friends and family, enjoying good company and the simple pleasures of life in Montreal – what I have missed most while on mission in South Sudan. From favourite foods (poutine, pho),  walks in Chinatown or the Old Port, the list of things to do is long but achievable!

This is here and now. A few weeks ago though, the world surrounding me was a very different place. Armed violence. Rape. Destruction. Hunger. Insecurity. Fear. Displacement. Hyperinflation. Dashed hope. For millions of South Sudanese, this is how the word “home” resonates. The stark differences between my home and South Sudan are simply irreconcilable and my experience of being in both worlds when working for the Red Cross abroad is like travelling through time and space.

I have recently returned from a working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as a communications coordinator in South Sudan for 18 months. Every time I return from a humanitarian mission - as I have been doing since 2008 from Iraq, Ivory Coast and the Central African Republic - I would hope I had returned from the worst and most conflict-affected place on earth. Yet sadly, every single time, I am proven wrong. To any humanitarian worker, South Sudan has unprecedented humanitarian challenges. The country and its people are braving their fifth year of independence with all hopes for peace shattered as clashes continue across the country, causing displacement, food shortages and a deepening reliance on humanitarian aid for survival.

Millions of people have faced unimaginable pain. For close to three years now, since the outbreak of the conflict on December 15th 2013, violence continues unabated. Despite the signature of the Peace Agreement in August 2015, scores of civilians continue to bear the brunt of a conflict that has uprooted entire communities, effectively destroyed means of production and survival, putting people’s resilience repeatedly to the test.

Layal working in South Sudan

Where does our world fit into all this? Simply put, we provide help, whenever we can and we’re proud of what the Red Cross teams are able to achieve. We supply and fit prosthesis to amputees, extend emergency health care to men, women and children caught in the crossfire, distribute food rations during emergencies and help communities build their resilience in ways adapted to local needs: distributing seeds and tools to farmers who are able to work on their land, or holding vaccination campaigns for cattle herders who rely on their cattle for income.

The Red Cross makes a real difference in the lives of thousands of people on a day-to-day basis, despite the challenges of working in a volatile environment.

Sure, you miss your family, friends and surroundings but the overall difference we’re able to make is not only worth the sacrifice, it is in fact invigorating, adding significance and ownership on an individual level to the word “aid”.  This has been my experience and for this reason, I encourage Canadians who are interested in helping to consider supporting the Red Cross in any way they can.

Together, we do make a difference in the lives of those whose stories are seldom told. 

Learn more about the Canadian Red Cross’ work to build capacity, improve food security and health care for women and children in South Sudan.
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