A GOAL aid worker has discovered a group of 35 South Sudanese toddlers in a remote part of South Sudan who have all been named after the Irish-headquartered charity.
The children, ranging in ages from two to four years, were all given the name ‘Goal’ by their mothers in recognition of the role that the aid agency and its staff played in the safe delivery of their babies.
Anteneh Tadele, who works as a communications officer for GOAL, found the group in an isolated camp for people displaced by the ongoing conflict in Upper Nile State in the north-east of the country.
In 2015, the ongoing conflict had forced the women from their homes in Baliet town, where they had been supported by GOAL for many years. Along with their children and thousands of other families, they walked for more than a week before arriving exhausted and starving at Dingthoma internally displaced persons’ camp near the town of Melut, 130 miles away.
Once the population decided to seek refuge elsewhere, GOAL took the decision to join them on the road and maintain the services they had been providing.
As it turned out, this decision was critical, as one mum explained.
“The conflict broke out while I was pregnant,” said Nyale Bolchwal. “At that time, I was having treatment at GOAL’s clinic at home in Baliet and I was ready to give birth. When we were forced to flee, GOAL followed us and provided all the services that we needed on the way to the camp in Melut. A few days after I arrived here, the GOAL staff delivered my children safely in the clinic. I had twin boys and I named them both ‘Goal’.
At just two and half years of age, Nyale’s boys are too young to understand why they are named ‘Goal’, but their mum says she will tell them in time.
“When my children grow up, I will tell them the whole story. I will say to them ‘you do not know what happened, you are not supposed to be alive. The GOAL clinic and the staff working there helped you to be born alive’.”
Another mother said she named her daughter ‘Goal’ because her baby was delivered safely at the GOAL clinic in a country where she knows that giving birth to a healthy child is not a straightforward procedure.
“I called my child ‘Goal’ because when we were in back home (in Baliet) GOAL was there doing health work,” said Nignan Bam. “GOAL helped me deliver my baby safely in their clinic. At that time, the women had so many complications at birth but when they came to GOAL’s clinic they were able to have the baby safely with the help of the midwife.”
Having come through so much together over the past four years, the mothers and their children have formed a firm friendship at the camp in Melut. They meet and talk regularly, and watch their children play together. And despite the confusion of having 35 children all bearing the same name, they are acutely aware of the role the organisation has played – and continues to play – in their lives.
“I appreciate what GOAL has been doing for our community,” says Nyale. “All these children were born in GOAL’s clinic and they have their names because of that. If GOAL had not been around, all these children would have died, including my own.”
Anteneh Tadele said that he was both amazed and delighted to find that so many mothers had decided to name their children after the organisation that has employed him for five years.
“A colleague had told me that there were a few babies that had been named ‘Goal’ in the camp, but I couldn’t believe it when I came across 35 kids all with the same name. These women had been through some very tough times, but they were obviously grateful to my colleagues for the services they provided and for ensuring that their children were delivered safe and well.
“I am glad that we are able to continue working together with these women and their families. And I hope someday the war ends and that they will be able to travel back home to Baliet.”
GOAL’s Head of Programmes, Fiona Gannon, who has worked for the organisation for 28 years, admitted she was astonished to hear about the ‘Goal’ children.
“I have worked across many, many countries in my time as an aid worker, but I have never heard of anything like this before,” she said. “I have come across cases where mothers have named their children after someone or something that has played a significant role in the birth of their child, but to find 35 kids all called ‘Goal’ in one camp is quite unique.
“It just goes to show how critical GOAL’s work is in South Sudan, and across the region generally. As one of the mothers has said, if GOAL staff had not been there to care for these women in the middle of this conflict, then their children, and perhaps even some of the mothers themselves, may have died.”
GOAL supports approximately 500,000 people across South Sudan with critical support, including healthcare, nutrition and food services. A combination of conflict and drought over the past four years has left 5.5 million South Sudanese people severely food insecure and forced four million people from their homes.
In recognition of the millions of people around the world who have been forcibly displaced, this year’s GOAL’s Christmas Campaign is based around the theme of ‘home’. To donate to GOAL’s Christmas ‘Home’ Campaign, please visit https://www.goalglobal.org/donate/.
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