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Hope And Loss As World's Youngest Country Turns 5

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By Melanie Gallant, Oxfam Canada Media Relations Officer

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Jane lost her husband and might have lost her daughter when conflict broke out in Mundri, South Sudan. Now taking care of her grandchildren in Mangaten camp, she mourns her loss and prays that her daughter is still alive: "I hope you're alive. I need you." Photo: Robert Fogarty

Last week, Canadians came together to celebrate their country's 149th birthday. This week, South Sudan marks five years as an independent nation. Yet for many there is little to celebrate.

For half of its brief life, the world's youngest nation has been ripped apart by war, leaving tens of thousands dead. Since the start of South Sudan's conflict in December 2013, more than 2.3 million people -- one in five -- have been forced from their homes.

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Thomas, a cartoonist working with Juba Monitor, has been separated from his mother for over two years since the start of the conflict. He also lost his childhood friend, Simon, whom he would regularly spend time with watching cartoons. He hopes for peace and stability in the country. Photo: Robert Fogarty

Earlier this year, Oxfam worked with world-famous photographer Robert Fogarty on a unique project to amplify the voices of the people of South Sudan.

Fogarty visited women, men and children, in a displacement camp and on the streets of the country's capital, Juba, sharing their stories of love and loss. Fogarty's unique images speak of the challenges faced by ordinary South Sudanese, their call to the world to help sustain their country's fragile peace and their hopes for a future without fear of violence.

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Caroline, an elderly woman from Peri, is thankful she did not lose anyone from her family. But she is blind and feels lost in the Mangaten camp for displaced people Juba's. Photo: Robert Fogarty

The photographs reveal the high hopes many have for South Sudan, a nation born, after nearly five decades of war, on 9 July 2011. In December 2013, a political power struggle plunged the country into civil war, shattering the hopes of many of its citizens. Thousands lost their lives. Five years on, more than two million South Sudanese have been driven from their homes in search of safety.

The photographs speak volumes with few words, slowly revealing the desires that bring people together not only in South Sudan, but the world over: peace, justice, and freedom. Their message reveals the inner thoughts of a people suspended in a perpetual state of war and grief, their voices demanding to be heard.

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Mary, from Marlei, fled Malakal to Mangaten camp in Juba when war broke out. She now takes care of 7 children in the camp, without the support of her husband who stayed behind. Photo: Robert Fogarty

"I went to South Sudan to take photos of ordinary men and women. Meeting people, I quickly realized that what everyone has in common is that they have experienced a deep sense of loss. Everyone had a story to tell," said Mr.Fogarty. 'I hope these portraits show another side to the people of South Sudan, so they can get the help they deserve to rebuild their lives and put their country on a better path."

It is time to bridge the gap between political peace and real peace in South Sudan. This collection challenges us to dig deeper, to connect, and to act.

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See some of Fogarty's portraits from South Sudan at the Dear World South Sudan website.

Oxfam has been working in South Sudan for over 20 years. Our work includes helping communities recover from conflicts through governance and peace building programmes. This project highlights the need for South Sudanese voices to be heard and included in the peace process. To learn more about the crisis in South Sudan, visit Oxfam's page here.

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