Lessons for aid workers in South Sudan

A Caritas aid worker holds a food voucher before presenting it to a beneficiary. Photo by: CAFOD Photo Library / CC BY-NC-ND

“The largest question I was asked since being here was: ‘Can we do this? Can we solve the famine,’” said Alejandro Guzman, head of the World Food Programme’s emergency response unit in South Sudan.

In February 2017, when famine was declared in two counties in South Sudan — the world’s youngest nation — the 30-year-old Venezuelan-American found himself at the center of the crisis. South Sudanese government officials and the international community questioned Guzman, urgently, about whether WFP was capable of pulling 100,000 people out of starvation.

It was only a few years earlier that he had embarked on his first job with the International Medical Corps as a project manager in South Sudan. Now he was in charge of the single largest humanitarian operation in the country — a million-dollar-a-day program supported by a fleet of 15 aircrafts, which delivers more than 8,000 metric tons of food to 1.5 million people.

“Three years ago the question was: Can I go to South Sudan?” Guzman said. “Now the question was: Can we solve a famine?”

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About the author

  • Sam mednick profile

    Sam Mednick

    Sam is a freelance journalist based in South Sudan. Over the past 12 years she’s reported on humanitarian, human interest and conflict stories from around the world. Sam’s work has taken her to the Middle East, Africa, Asia, South America and Europe, writing for VICE, the Associated Press, Devex, Barcelona Metropolitan and iPolitics among others. Sam also produces and hosts the Happy Melly Podcast, interviewing authors, speakers and thought leaders about what it takes to live productive and fulfilling lives.