Episode 805: War And Peace And Cows : Planet Money In South Sudan, there is a kind of money that works even through bank failures and unstable governments. But when war struck, it upended a whole economy: the economy of cows.
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Episode 805: War And Peace And Cows

Mariah Quesada/AP
In this photo taken Monday, July 31, 2017, a young South Sudanese boy learns how to take care of cattle at a camp outside the town of Rumbek, South Sudan. Cows are used for payments and dowries, which Human Rights Watch calls a "key driver of child marriage" as families see daughters as a source of wealth. (AP Photo/Mariah Quesada)
Mariah Quesada/AP

If you're in South Sudan and something big happens in your life — you get married, you buy property or pay a penalty for a crime — cows are most likely involved. Cows are currency and credit card and bank account rolled into one. In South Sudan, banks can go bankrupt — cows are more reliable. At least that's how it used to be.

But in 2013, war broke out in South Sudan. Armed militias invaded and rampaged villages. They burned homes to the ground and attacked women, children and babies. They also undertook the largest cattle heist that anyone can remember. Now when survivors tell stories of their experiences, one thing they all speak about is how will they ever return home - or find peace - without cows?

Today on the show: Gregory Warner of NPR's podcast Rough Translation goes to South Sudan to find the missing cows.

Music: "Blue Eyes." Find us: Twitter/Facebook.

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