Having to contend with an already troubling economic environment occasioned by a prevailing political instability, most South Sudanese had to face it rough as they adjusted to cope with the adverse impact of Covid-19 on their sources of livelihood.
The poor in the country and especially those that rely on daily manual jobs to earn a living lost their jobs as some of the organizations where they used to work closed down due to restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the corona virus. Their buying power got affected to a point that some were left stranded and without food for their families.
As the pandemic continued to bite hard, a young South Sudanese got the inspiration to mobilize financial resources towards supporting and providing needy families with food rations. He reached out to a humanitarian organization with whom his desire to extend a helping during the difficult times was realized.
Jacob Aloung – a member of Donor See, a US based charity online platform decided to raise some money to support poor families with food supplies to save them from starvation during the lockdown.
Although Jacob did not initially like the idea of a lockdown when it was announced, he had to contend with the fact that it is indeed the right thing to have been done in order to contain the spread of the corona virus. In preparation for the lockdown effects he started stocking food in his house and shared part of it with his neighbors.
“I did not like the idea of the lockdown because I felt it would affect the people I had in my mind, those who are very poor”. He continued “I started stocking food in my house and gave some to people in my neighborhood, then people started knowing about me and others called and I went to assess their situation,” Jacob explained.
Jacob added that he wanted to give people food to secure them from malnutrition which would have potentially weakened their immunity and make them more vulnerable to covid-19.
“I wanted to feed the poor people, to boast their immune system because you know if a person’s immunity is low, he or she can easily contract the virus. So I wanted to feed them so that in case they contract the coronavirus they can be able to recover and that was the logic behind my programming,” he said.
He has so far supported over 145 families from different parts of the country including Juba, Jonglei and Bor. The quantity of food supplied to each family is determined by the size of the family and on average the food items are valued at $100 – $300.
“Up to now I have served about 148 families in the country. Each family has about five to ten members. If the family is small I raise about 100 to 200 dollars but if it’s big family I can raise up to 300 depending on the family size and my judgment.”
Jacob who is 37 years old believes that young people who are privileged to work and live in major cities can go a long way in supporting the needy and should feel encouraged to reach out and share whatever they have with the needy in their respective communities.
“When you live in a city like this, you are a blessing to others, learn from your neighbors and each of us are gifted in one way or the other. Sometimes we say it’s none of our business but it is all our business to look out and help whoever may need our support,” he lamented.
Jacob observed that majority of those who contribute to his initiative are mainly from foreign countries adding that it has been difficult to get support from the local populations.
Susan Knight a single mother is one of the beneficiaries of Jacob’s project. Knight is very grateful to Jacob for supporting her family with the food supplies during the tough days of the pandemic.
“The things that Jacob shopped for us are family things like flour, cooking oil, hand sanitizers, beans etc.” she continued “because my family is small and it’s a single family we were able to use the supplies for about five months. I’m so grateful to Jacob for that.”
Another citizen, Daniel Majak has been observing the work Jacob does and is inspired by his selflessness. He is convinced that if there would be several other people like Jacob in South Sudan, the humanitarian reports that say millions are at risk of hunger in the country would be a thing of the past.
“If majority of South Sudanese would emulate what Jacob is doing many people will not suffer from hunger or children will never lack education and everyone would be concerned about how their neighbors are doing,” he explained.
According to Majak the non-discriminative approach adopted by the Jacob Aluong’s initiative while offering support to the poor community is not only saving lives during this trying times of the covid-19 pandemic, but also promoting peaceful coexistence among communities.
“I have seen that Jacob has a good leadership drive, and a good person to be with who does not discriminate despite the social fabric of our country. He has also supported people from different backgrounds and ethnicity; this is something that I can use as a tool to promote peace building and reconciliation in this country,” he said.
This story was produced with support from Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA) as part of the efforts to showcase resilience, innovation and solidarity in COVID-19 response in Eastern Africa.