Skyped with my good friend in South Sudan this afternoon for a brief bit. He is coordinating the logistics required to move tens of thousands of returnees from Sudan and further afield back to South Sudan.
This business is fraught with challenges. My friend has been working directly with this program since January this year. In the most recent operation about a month ago, nearly 6,000 returnees boarded several barges to head up the Nile to uncertainty and new homes. He is now in the midst of orchestrating the return of over a thousand more.
This week he was informed that the returnees are refusing to leave unless they can leave in a much larger group - not something that is always possible in a remote backwater in rural Africa. In the mean time, a particularly virulent form of cerebral malaria has broken out in the midst of the ongoing rainy season. 30 people have died this week, as the disease seems to be drug-resistant and is not responding to any of the typical pharmaceutical cures.
It seems the only "cure" is to wait out the rains and count causalities at the end of September, a grim conclusion for sure. My friend was told, "The deaths in the camp are on [your] head." Meanwhile, people refuse to move out of the camp. These are the interactions that suck the joy out of the valuable and theoretically exciting international mandate of assembling the citizens of a new nation state.