Mother Earth can’t wait

An OpEd by Wendy Ahonda and Mohamed Ag Ayoya

20 November 2020
Wendy Ahonda speaks into a microphone
UNICEF South Sudan/2020/Chol
Wendy Ahonda takes over as UNICEF South Sudan Deputy Representative on World Children’s Day. She's 16 years old and addressed a crowed before the students cleaned garbage up in the streets of the Customs market in Juba. She read the calls to action the children created, demanding that climate change be addressed now so they have a better future.

JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN – A mother wading through flood water so high it touches the feet of the toddler she is carrying while searching for dry land for the family. The images coming out of a flooded Jonglei state in South Sudan are stark reminders of why we must act now to reduce the effects of climate change and work together for a cleaner future for all.

The mighty river Nile went over its bank also this year. Since 1970, the world has seen more floods and the temperature has increased. Areas that would normally be dry are wet and crops rotting leaving people with nothing to eat. For a country like South Sudan largely relying on agriculture, this is catastrophic.

Climate change is caused by emissions of toxic fumes over a longer period of time. South Sudan, with its limited industry and car park can’t be named as one of the main contributors; nonetheless what happens on the ground in South Sudan also matters. The large scale cutting of trees for firewood and production of charcoal has left the population vulnerable. Trees are like green filters turning CO2 to oxygen, but every day there are less of these filters. Trees are also holding the ground together with their widespread roots when the rain is hitting hard. Now, landslides are taking houses, farms and lives.

The lack of waste management is evident in South Sudan. Black plastic bags are waving from the roadside in the wind as you roam around in the capital or any of the other towns throughout the country. Most people burn trash producing toxic walls of smoke inhaled by the entire neighbourhood, a dangerous addition for children in a country where pneumonia is already rife. Trash is also finding its way to water sources contaminating them and making people sick.

Climate change and environmental issues can sometimes feel like problems too big to be solved. This is why mother earth needs each and every one of us to do our part. The first step is acknowledging that these changes and challenges are real and don’t fertilize doubt. The second step is raising awareness. Only when you know you can act. Therefore, we ask for the Government of South Sudan to include environmental issues into the primary and senior curriculums. The future leaders of this country must be equipped with knowledge.

We need for everyone to start taking actions in their own communities, stop dropping trash, protect water sources from waste and ensure bins are used. We need for the Government of South Sudan to ensure trash is collected on a regular basis and as much as possible is recycled.

We need for people to stop cutting trees and find alternatives to charcoal and firewood. We need for the Government of South Sudan to step up to the electrification of the country and help people take advantage of the enormous resource the sun is through solar power. We need for more trees to be planted to help regain the green lunges of South Sudan.

We urge all community leaders to take actions and lead by example and encourage everyone to do the same. We urge the Government of South Sudan to step up efforts, supporting the citizens in living greener lives. To all the children, we urge you to rise your voices and make sure your cries are heard, the earth is ours all and we too can cause change.

Happy World Children’s Day.

Media contacts

Yves Willemot
Chief of Communication
UNICEF South Sudan
Tel: +211 91 216 2888


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

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