Living in Trash to Survive a Civil War

Juba, South Sudan

By: John Kazaklis, March 2016

After driving on countless unpaved roads about 15 kilometers west of Juba, South Sudan, we arrived at the Juba County Dumpsite. Smoke and methane gas were steaming from the waste-covered earth. Unlike other dumpsites, the waste here was not piled deep, but instead spread out thinly on top of desert-like land. The image of 200-300 children running around barefoot in the dumpsite will forever be imprinted in my mind.

This was our second visit in two days to the dumpsite. Because of the devastating civil war taking place in South Sudan, families and communities were displaced and fleeing for their lives. On this unwanted piece of earth outside the country's capital, we saw the effects of this war in ways we haven't seen before. Where waste was being thrown, we found people surviving. We found families living and eating from of this dumpsite. We were also able to meet families from varying ethnicities, religions, and homelands. Some were of the Bari tribe, others were originally from Khartoum, and others were Arabic speaking. What brought them all together? The civil war and their willingness to do whatever it takes to survive, even if it meant turning to trash as a lifeline.