Malaria pervades every community in my homeland, South Sudan. I was in my village, Ayiet, last summer and brought three months’ worth of anti-malarial pills from the United States for my own protection. One morning, my six-year-old brother, Matiok, woke up with a high fever. He was sweating, vomiting, and shaking — the telltale symptoms of malaria that I myself had experienced in a refugee camp in northern Sudan a decade earlier. I gave him my anti-malarial pills and a few days later, he was back up, chasing dragonflies in the field.
Soon, mothers from the village crowded my house seeking what they called “magical pills” for their malaria-afflicted children.
Malaria is the most common, deadly, disease across South Sudan, but we don’t need magical pills (average South Sudanese people can’t afford them) to eradicate it. There is a simpler, more efficient, more cost-effective tool that has reduced the spread of malaria in many countries by half in the last decade: mosquito nets. A life-saving bed net costs just $10.
Last week in Durham, North Carolina, I joined the Nothing But Nets campaign for an inspiring event to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis facing people in my country. More than 130,000 South Sudanese have fled fighting on the border with Sudan. So I am glad to support Nothing But Nets’ emergency appeal to send 100,000 insecticide-treated bed-nets to help protect refugees in South Sudan from malaria. The refugees in the world’s newest nation face a myriad of challenges — political, social, economic, and even ethnic — that many can only imagine. It’s easy to feel powerless to help. But malaria is not one of those issues: you and I have the power to end this preventable disease.
That’s magic that we can all make.
About Nyuol Tong
Nyuol Tong is a former refugee from South Sudan. He and his family were displaced by a violent war that forced them to live in huts and on the streets for many years. In 2003, his family fled to Cairo, Egypt, where – in his quest for education – Nyuol met a professor who helped him gain admission to Dunn School in California. It was here that he founded a nonprofit organization called SELFSudan. In South Sudan, just 2 percent of boys and fewer than 1 percent of girls complete primary school; just 7 percent of teachers there have formal training. SELFSudan is building a school, the Malualdit Ayeit Liberty Academy, scheduled to open in August. Now a sophomore at Duke University, Nyuol shares his story of with communities, churches, schools, and universities throughout the United States. His journey has shaped his belief that education is the only way to liberate South Sudan from its legacy of war.