I arrived at Yida Airstrip shortly after mid-day. Immediately, I meet my hosts Ms Eugenie Uwamahoro, AAH South Sudan Area Coordinator for Unity State and Mr. Moriba Bandawuba, AAH South Sudan Logistics Manager waiting for me at the airstrip. I arrive wearing my staff ID for easier identification. As soon as we touch down, Mr. Bandawuba moves towards me and takes up my luggage. “You must be Linda!” He says in an authoritative voice. “Welcome to Yida!” I smile “Thank you!” We continue with another round of introductions as we drive down to the AAH South Sudan accommodation compound. In less than ten minutes we arrive at the staff quarters, and begin talking about the interview strategy and the purpose of my trip.Soon after, we break for lunch and shortly after that, I am introduced to the rest of the staff members before resuming to their afternoon shifts. I am assigned to Levi Buyinza, AAH South Sudan Project Administration Officer, who will be my ‘tour guide’ for the rest of the day. The first order of business is a courtesy call to all departmental heads to make known the goal of my visit. As soon as we finish making all the rounds, we sit down and I begin a discussion with Levi to learn more about AAH South Sudan’s operations in Yida.
Levi starts our discussion with a rhetorical question. “Can you imagine being allocated a piece of land that is full of bushes that on it is where you are expected to put up a home? “The challenge of putting up a house is hard enough, but a home is even harder!” he chuckles. He tells me that AAH South Sudan took up that challenge in Yida and has done very well.
“AAH has changed the face of this place. In Yida, we are the first agency to set up permanent accommodation structures for our staff accommodation and offices. In addition, those permanent accommodation units you have seen here have been put up by AAH South Sudan.” He says with a smile pointing at the UNHCR blue iron sheet roofed modern accommodation units; tilled and air conditioned.
“We not only take pride in putting up good facilities, but are also concerned about the impact they have on the people we work with - mainly the refugees and the host communities and the local economy. Levi further mentions that the constructions have been a source of job opportunities for both communities. Local traders have also benefited from sale of construction materials. Local authorities within the Payam have as well benefited from tax revenues ensuing from the increased trade. All in all, we feel that these projects are making a difference in Pariang County,” he adds.
“Our services have not only been confined to Yida Refugee Camp, but have extended to other areas in Pariang County specifically in Pariang Town and Jamjang. Following agreement between the Pariang County authorities and UNHCR, AAH South Sudan refurbished and rehabilitated dilapidated Pariang County Commissioners office premises and also Yida Payam offices. This has not only strengthened working relations with the authorities but has also boosted service delivery to the wider community. Recently, we also put up a youth centre which not only serves as a centre for social gathering but might in future also used as a vocational training facility for the youth,” he happily remarks.
“Is the facility functional yet?” I ask. “No, but it will soon be handed over to UNHCR and thereafter to the community,” he says.
Good relations and cooperation with both the central and the local government structures becomes important and ensure the success of projects. AAH South Sudan has prides itself for the cordial relations it has cultivated with the relevant authorities. The Jam Jang Executive Director, David Bol is happy with the work AAH South Sudan is doing in his area. “AAH has done many things here and these projects have changed the face of this area which was once a remote village but is now a thriving town that is attracting people to trade. Many lives have been enriched through the improvement of service delivery including repairing and painting of our dilapidated offices.”
Below is an interview excerpt from Mr. Daiude Bol, Payam Executive Director.
My name is David Bol, Payam’s Executive Director. I would like to appreciate AAH South Sudan for the support that they have rendered to the host community. AAH has done very well in all the projects that they are implementing. These projects have really changed the face of this area and transformed it from a village into a town.
At a personal level, I also take pride in such development as they have caused our county to come into the limelight. The staff quarters are state of the art and can comfortably accommodate dignitaries and even presidents from all over the world.
Another key achievement has been the fuel management that AAH has been implementing on behalf of UNHCR. This has been very beneficial since the water pumps are now powered and the people don’t have to walk long distances in search of water for their animals and for their day to day use.
We have continued to enjoy good working relations with AAH. Recently, I was very happy when they came in and lent us a helping hand in repairing and painting of our dilapidated offices. The facelift has gone a long way in boosting service delivery and also improving working conditions for our staff members.
We continue to pray that God will grant AAH the ability to continue serving the people in dire need.
About the Project
AAH South Sudan, with funding from the UNHCR has been involved in delivering assistance to displaced persons affected by conflict in Sudan with an aim of assisting them to resume normal life. AAH South Sudan is UNHCR’s main logistics implementing partner (IP) has and supports other UNHCR partner organisations in South Sudan including UNICEF to ensure the unimpeded flow of humanitarian relief items, personnel and fuel. It also ensures the maintenance of a fleet of vehicles used in these operations, Manage warehouses as well as construction and refurbishment of various facilities. Since March 2013, AAH has been involved in the relocation of refugees from Yida to the newly established camp in Ajuong Thok, which has been a major priority for UNHCR and the Government of South Sudan.
As a new nation without a history of formal institutions, rules or administration accepted as legitimate by its society, South Sudan is building its institution from scratch. Fundamental administrative structures and mechanisms of political representation are only beginning to emerge, and the government still struggles to provide basic services.
On the other hand UNHCR continues to grapple with the influx of refugee populations in Unity and Upper Nile States following the on-going fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile as a result of the inter-ethnic and inter-communal violence.
As an implementing partner, AAH is keen to provide high-quality, community-centred approached in conflict and post conflict settings in South Sudan.
By Linda K. Ongwenyi, Communications Officer, AAH-I