Loreto Missionary in South Sudan, Sr. Orla Treacy, presented with the Hugh O’Flaherty International Humanitarian Award in Killarney
Loreto missionary Sr. Orla Treacy received the 2017 Hugh O’Flaherty International Humanitarian Award in Killarney for her work with young women at the Loreto School in Rumbek in South Sudan.
Mayor of Killarney Municipal Authority Cllr Niall Kelleher presented the award. He praised Sr. Orla Treacy for selflessly educating girls in South Sudan.
The 2017 Fragile States Index for 2017 says South Sudan is the most fragile democracy of the 178 nations it assessed.
The O’Flaherty International Humanitarian Award includes a €1,000 bursary made available by pupils of Killarney’s primary and secondary schools.
Sr. Orla, Principal of the Loreto School in Rumbek, said: “In February 2006, our sisters responded to the call to open a school for girls in the town of Rumbek – then part of the greater country Sudan. The country had just ended 22 years of civil war with the North.
“We began with a girls secondary boarding school but over the years we realised the needs of the local community were greater than just a secondary school and we have since added a primary school for boys and girls – this operates two shifts – morning and afternoon and more recently we added a clinic to serve the needs of our 1,200 students and the workers – in particular malnourished babies in the community.”
“Ten per cent of our babies die before the age of three months and 14 per cent of our children are dead by the age of five.
“Fifty-six per cent of the population have no access to medical care and if treated by medical personnel most don’t have the finance to buy the medicines, or the medicines are not available …and the biggest challenge we came across was lack of education and belief in the power of the witch doctors.
“We are the hardest country for girls to be educated in, one per cent of girls finish secondary school. We are the most illiterate country in the world, 27 per cent of the population are literate and that’s in urban centres, not where we are.
“I have never met a mother educated in our local community. Fifty two per cent of girls are married by the age of 18 and in many cases they are forced marriages.
“We had a population of 12 million people in 2011- today, 2 million are gone as refugees to neighbouring countries while nearly 2 million are internally displaced people – one in 3 are displaced and more than half are hungry … 6 million are in need of food support.
“Our economy has collapsed. Almost 90 per cent of the population are unemployed. We boast of 200kms of tarmac roads in a country 10 times the size of Ireland.
“The people know more of the experience of war than they do of peace. This is our reality” she said. “I think of our donors, especially Irish Aid and Misean Cara, and the strangers who support our work – with their support we are able to educate 1,200 young people each day, offer employment to 200 local families and provide 2,000 meals each day.“
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