Dan Barthmaier is the Field Director for CHF southern Sudan, where he has worked for 2 ½ years. He began his development career with CHF as an intern and has worked in Ghana, Cameroon, the Congo and Sudan. In August he visited headquarters and was interviewed by CHF Updates on CHF’s work in southern Sudan.
What is the history of CHF in southern Sudan?
CHF has been in southern Sudan since 2005. We currently have three offices and are soon to open two more. Our staff of 60 people is comprised mainly of Sudanese; we only have nine expatriates and most of these are from other African countries.
What are the special challenges of working in southern Sudan?
After decades of civil war, southern Sudan has virtually no infrastructure in place. It is a large geographical area with poor quality roads, especially during the rainy season when all the dust turns to mud. It is not uncommon for landmines, remnants of the war, to move during the rainy season: you occasionally find a road freshly blocked after a landmine has sloshed through the mud to a new home.
Southern Sudan has virtually no industry, literacy levels are low and there has been very little return to agriculture since the war. All goods and skilled labor have to be imported from Kenya, Uganda, northern Sudan or another country – and this, in turn, means there are high transport costs.
There are militias and ethnic conflicts (primarily based around cattle raiding), and the Lord’s Resistance Army from Uganda roam parts of the south. Occasionally you come across remnants of the war larger than landmines – rusting tanks and crashed airplanes – and, of course, you never know if they still contain live ammunition.
In short, there are countless challenges. But one crucial thing that southern Sudan has is hope. Hope is crucial when you are trying to make lasting changes.