With high levels of poverty in South Sudan and inflation rates approaching 600%, it is increasingly difficult for residents to cater for basic needs.
During desperate times, residents are forced to borrow money. However, lending sources are few and difficult to reach.
Akuol, a mother of two children understands this challenge. She is a primary school dropout who earns minimal income through informal work. Akuol joined South Sudan Community Bank, a microfinance institution established in 2014 with funding from Five Talents. Saving as little as little as 200 SSP (5 USD) has increased her chances of borrowing a loan from the bank.
I met Akuol with her baby girl, Aker, at South Sudan Community Bank, last month.
South Sudan Community Bank, provides financial access to community members through both business and emergency loans.
Business loans are meant to assist entrepreneurs starting or expanding their businesses. They are loaned out for three months at a significantly lower rate than that charged by commercial banks. Emergency loans, on the other hand, support borrowers with urgent needs. They are loaned out for up to two months and enable borrowers to address medical concerns or other family emergencies.
The bank is owned by community members through shares meaning that any profit made, goes to the community. South Sudan Community Bank has established a reputation as the only microfinance institution in Kuajok where the very poor can save and also borrow loans.
Akuol was hopeful when I met her at the bank. She urgently needed an emergency loan because her little daughter was very sick.
Akuol knew that time was short. Many mothers in her community have lost children to treatable diseases because of lack of finances to pay for medicine. In fact, South Sudan has one of the highest rates of child mortality in the world.
Akuol requested a loan amount of 500 SSP ($12.50) in order to pay for treatment for her little girl. It's amazing that such a small amount is out of reach for many in South Sudan. Loans for as little as $10 can make the difference between life and death.
Akuol's loan application form was approved by the bank immediately, enabling her to take Aker for treatment right away.
"I will rush to [the] Medical Centre now for my child's treatment," she said, "thanks to South Sudan Community Bank for relieving me from this stress of lack of money."
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Photos: Children gather outside the gate of South Sudan Community Bank in Kuajok (by Jessi LeMay); Akuol with her daughter at the loan officer's desk