The path to Simbari is a steep mountain track that zig-zags steeply through dense rainforest, crossing wild rivers and ravines, made dangerously slippery by muddy clay. Heavily pregnant women and sick, elderly villagers must travel this same path to access basic medical care.
Jenny had to give birth in the mountains while trying to reach the medical facility. “I felt scared and I was in pain. After the delivery I couldn’t walk.”
She worries about the health facility being so far away. In the wet season, the path becomes a raging rapid, washing entire trees away and destroying the makeshift cane bridges on its banks. If her children are sick, Jenny always tries to take them to get treatment, but sometimes it is not possible and they must stay in her village without medical care.
To help address the healthcare gap in Jenny’s district, CARE is training village health volunteers to help provide basic health support, encourage pregnant women to attend health clinics, promote personal health and hygiene, and teach the community about diet and nutrition.
CARE also worked with the communities surrounding the river to replace several dangerous cane bridges, which were frequently washed away, with a new footbridge. The new bridge makes Jenny’s difficult journey less dangerous. Now, villagers are proud that those coming to and from Simbari can cross the river safely - even in the wet season.
A few days before Christmas, soldiers attacked the town of Bongki, South Sudan. Hundreds of men, women and children were killed and homes were torched to the ground. Terrified, Nyabel and her family ran straight to the bush, aiming for the town of Panyang.
“We could hear the sounds of bombs and gunfire. We just had to keep moving,” said Nyabel. “There was no one directing us, we just knew the direction we had to go. We hoped that, if we reached Panyang, we could be safe.”
By morning, the family had reached Panyang and they rested on the outskirts of town. Within a few hours, however, fighting arrived in Panyang. The CARE-run hospital in the town was inundated, with CARE staff treating more than 200 gunshot-wound patients in a single day.
Nyabel and her family had to keep moving. Walking without shoes in thick bush at night, Nyabel's feet were cut and badly swollen. Despite this, she led the younger members of her family through the bush as her mother nursed Nyabel's baby brother, who was just days old.
By the time they reached Yida, three days later, they were exhausted and overwhelmed. A friend was able to give them space on the floor of his small house, but Nyabel's new brother was critically ill after the journey. He was taken to a temporary hospital for urgent treatment and he spent the next five months there.
Eight months on, the family is struggling with hunger. The children go to the bush daily to pick vegetables and edible plants but are still living on one simple meal per day of what the family calls ‘paper food’; usually a paste of mill flour and water.
“Despite all we’ve been through to get here, we’re still suffering. We’re still lacking a lot of things, like shelter and food,’ said Nyabel. 'I’m just hoping for peace, so that we can get the possibility of going to school, for a better future.”
CARE has supported Nyabel and her family with seeds and tools to grow food for the coming months. CARE is providing medical support, supplementary feeding for malnourished children, sanitation services and other relief supplies to families across South Sudan’s hardest hit states of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei. But more support is desperately needed.
Nyabel’s story is far from unique. By choosing to Walk In Her Shoes and raise money for CARE, you making it possible for us to be there for people like Nyabel, when they most need our support.
To collect water for her family, Finase would wake before dawn and set out with a 25-litre container, walking along a muddy, slippery path to get to the nearest water source. That water source was a spring, which cows, donkeys, goats and sheep also used as a drinking hole.
“I was walking to fetch water that was making me sick and could kill me,” says Finase.
"When I was walking to fetch water I would think about the other students in class…I wished I was there with them. I was embarrassed that I didn’t pass grade three and had to re-sit a year."
Finase also missed school because she would get sick with stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea.
The muddy water Finase was walking hours to collect was making her brothers and sisters sick too. Her mother recalls, “My children were pale, lifeless and cried a lot. As soon as they got a little stronger, they would get sick again. I felt there was nothing I could do to make them better." But without a water pump nearby, Finase had no choice but to collect and give her family filthy water from unprotected springs to drink.
A few years ago, CARE workers began working with the families in Finase's village to work out the best locations to install water pumps. Now, Finase still helps with family chores and she still collects water several times a day, but the walk is much shorter and the water she collects is clean.
Finase now has time to attend school regularly, and it's paying off. She's now in grade 5 and she particularly enjoys English and math. Finase no longer has to dream about going to school alonside her friends. That dream has become a reality. Her sights are now set on going to university and becoming a teacher.
Like millions of women from poor communities around the world, Irene and her mother Nyengeterah are responsible for providing the water, food and firewood for the family. This is considered women’s work – and it’s heavy work.
Nyengeterah is a widow and is raising her four children on her own after her husband died over ten years ago. She participates in a CARE program supporting subsistence farmers who are extremely vulnerable to climate change and unpredictable weather patterns. Combined with poor soil quality, a lack of fertilizer and unpredictable rainfall, hundreds of families like theirs are affected by poor crop yields and ultimately, a lack of food.
There’s hope that the study Irene is doing at home will help provide a way out of this crippling cycle of poverty. But for today, mother and daughter will continue their daily struggle for food and water.
Walk In Her Shoes to make it possible for CARE to continue providing support to people like Irene.
Girls walk an average of 10,000 steps each day for firewood, while their brothers attend school. While their husbands own most of the farmland, women walk an average of seven kilometers each day for water and firewood, leaving no time to earn an income to supplement the family.
Seventy per cent of the world’s poorest people are women and girls.
But girls and women aren’t just the faces of the poverty; they’re also the key to overcoming it.
CARE’s seven decades of experience makes clear that when you empower a girl or a woman, she becomes a catalyst for positive change whose success benefits everyone around her. The funds you raise when you do your Walk In Her Shoes challenge will help reduce the distance women and girls have to walk by providing clean water and nutritious food close to home so that they can spend more time in school, earn an income and help their community to overcome poverty.
Start your challenge now.