The history of conflict tells us that its greatest victims are often the most innocent among us, those who're not even fully aware of what's going on around them. In the Lakes city of Rumbek, HDC Executive Director Deng He Yuott encountered this pair of boys. They weren't playing or being naughty like boys their age might be. They weren't in class reciting their times tables. They were working hard polishing leather shoes for money.
Deng was responding to a newspaper story he'd seen in the Sudan Tribune about street children in Rumbek, in particular about a boy who'd been cut off from his family as they were displaced by conflict in the Rumbek region. Faced with extreme hunger, the boy in the newspaper story had sought to fend for himself in the relative safety and prosperity of this small town.
Ordinarily, one ought to be pleased with such steely determination, such resolve in the face of great odds. Here however it also represented an image of the depth of deprivation and disconnection that conflict had brought across South Sudan. It demonstrated the fraying of South Sudan's traditions of care, and the reliability of family bonds in the face of extreme disruption of families through loss of life and displacement. The adults who might have been relied on to take care of these boys, were either not alive, not present or completely unable to do so.
By the time Deng made it to Rumbek, the boy in the story had been taken in by a distant relative, alerted to his disconnection by public discussions of the shoe shine boy of Rumbek. Sadly, as you can see from Deng's video above, there remain others not as fortunate.