BEYOND THE RIVER YEI

Life in the land where sleeping is a disease
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INTRODUCTION

In June 2003, Sven Torfinn and I were invited to Yei county by Malteser, to witness life there; and spend time travelling with the Sleeping Sickness Screening team. The idea was for us to present to the rest of the world, what life is like in south Sudan-and how it has been affected by sleeping sickness.

It was a bold move, and it is one that perhaps needs some explanation.
Sudan has been at war for many years now; and although the humanitarian situation there remains one of the direst in the world, many people, their Kenyan neighbours included, have become numbed to it. We have been sent the same visuals over and over again: texts, pictures and voices, in the throes of physical and mental anguish, the faces of death, the corpes littering the screen, human debris...


So how do you awaken people to the situation in Sudan? How do we show the world that aggressive, consistent and comprehensive programs to reduce the prevalence of Sleeping Sickness are necessary now, to prevent a further spread of the epidemic?

I returned from South Sudan raw and haunted, powerfully moved. There is in Sudan much less of the cushion, the accumulative benefits that modern technology provides. How fundamental everything is when daily life is managed by the full use of ones's wits, how much more human?

It is so easy to leave Sudan with a story dominated by pestilence and death: the exotica of present reportage. It is far more difficult to draw characters and ordinary human impulses against the larger backdrop of the war. It is my sincere hope that the photographs in this book, and this story, will open up a human Sudan to people outside. Through this, we hope that readers will share the lives of the people who represent the grim statistics we see splashed in our media so regularly.

Binyavanga Wainaina

PURCHASE