World Refugee Day: Nyamith's Story

June 20th is World Refugee Day and the theme this year is to join together in solidarity with refugees. Light for the World had the opportunity to get to know and work with Nyamith Stephen (13 years old).
Young girl in South Sudan with walker

Nyamith and her family (including one sister and three brothers) fled from their village in Pibor because of ethnic conflicts. Four of her relatives were killed in an ambush.

The Republic of South Sudan separated from Sudan on July 9th, 2011 after long periods of violent conflicts. Since its independence, South Sudan (with an estimated population of 11.4 Million) has struggled with good governance and nation-building and has attempted to control rebel militia groups operating in its territory. The long-lasting conflict of warfare in South Sudan has devastated the social and economic fabric of society, creating widespread poverty and depriving people of livelihoods.

To date, there are over 1.9 million South Sudanese internally displaced by the conflicts that erupted in December 2013 and July 2016. A total of 7.2 million people are in need of international humanitarian support (UNOCHA Humanitarian Bulletin South Sudan May 2019). Approximately 250,000 people with disabilities are living in internally displaced person's (IDP) camps. Emergency situations such as conflicts or natural disasters can also generate an increased number of people who experience disabilities as a result of new injuries, a lack of quality medical care, or the collapse of essential services. But in most of the humanitarian programmes and services provided in the camps and host communities, there are only a few deliberate attempts by the relevant organizations or the government to mainstream the needs of persons with disabilities in the project design.

Portrait of Nyamith on her wheelchair

Nyamith has now stayed in the Mahad IDP camp in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, for five years. She was identified by a community-based rehabilitation field worker who himself lives in the Mahad IDP camp and is trained and supported by Light for the World. Nyamith was not able to walk, and could only sit since her birth due to cerebral palsy. 

 Photo Credit - Julia Gunther

Light for the World, in cooperation with the Italian NGO: Organismo di Volontariato per la Cooperazione Internazionale (OVCI), was able to send Nyamith to Kampala/ Uganda for surgery. Now she can move with crutches and a wheelchair. She is also able to play with other children in the camp and has been attending an accessible and inclusive school for the first time in her life since 2018. 

Additional surgeries have caused Nyamith to participate sporadically in school. At the moment, her main challenge is that she still has follow-up visits that she and her parents attend a hospital in Kampala/ Uganda which makes her attendance in school somehow irregular. Sometimes when her orthopaedic footwear breaks down it also affects her attendance since it can only be repaired at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which sometimes can be a bit of a delay. 

Apart from these obstacles, she is enjoying school and is actively learning with her friends. Furthermore, Light for the World is helping Nyamith’s mother establish her own small business so that she is able to generate income and care for her family. 

Currently, people in South Sudan suffer from a food crisis in the provinces of Lakes, Unity and Jonglei. People seek food, and some need to travel long distances. International humanitarian support is existential.

Nyamith doing rehabilitation

Light for the World has invited international and local humanitarian organizations to participate in a workshop to learn how to mainstream disability in their attitude, policies and services. The workshop will take place in Juba on June 24 through the 28. The aim is that humanitarian support will reach to a growing number of people with disabilities, especially during the current food crisis.