What You Need to Know about the South Sudan Crisis

Post a Comment » Written on September 22nd, 2014     
Filed under: Disaster Relief
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We found this great resource from Mercy Corps (not a CWR partner, but well known and respected in the international development community). Wanted to share it with you…



South Sudan should be a country full of hope just three years after gaining independence. Instead, it’s now in the grip of a massive humanitarian crisis. Nearly 4 million people are at risk of starvation and some areas are facing possible famine.

But the alarming food crisis in South Sudan isn’t the result of drought — it’s man-made. Political conflict has caused massive displacement, raging violence and dire food shortages.

The people of South Sudan need our help, and among the world’s other crises, we must not forget them. We are working on the ground to reach families who are struggling to survive. But our lifesaving work starts with you.

Learn more about the complexities of this crisis below — and find out how you can help. Share this story to tell the world that more must be done to help South Sudan.

When did the crisis start?
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011, but the hard-won celebration was short-lived. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement led the way for independence, but is now divided and fighting for power.

In December 2013, political infighting erupted into violence in the streets of the capital, Juba, after South Sudan’s President accused his Vice President of an attempted coup. Fighting between the two factions of government forces soon moved to Bor, and then to Bentiu.

Violence spread across the young nation like wildfire, displacing 413,000 civilians in just the first month of conflict. Tens of thousands of civilians sought refuge from the violence in U.N. bases that were turned into makeshift displacement camps.

The situation is still highly unstable and fighting continues in seven of the 10 states within the country. Watch our video: New nation on the brink ▸

What’s happening to people in South Sudan?
Since the conflict began, 1 in 7 people in South Sudan have been displaced. 1.7 million citizens have been forced to flee their homes. 452,000 people have escaped to neighboring countries in search of safety, but most are trapped inside the warring nation.

Those who’ve escaped have lost loved ones and their homes, their land and their livelihoods. Violence towards civilians has been widespread, including targeted attacks, kidnappings and murders.

People can’t work, farmers can’t plant — all people can do is hope to survive until there is an end to the brutal fighting. They are scared of the future and most just want to have a home again, and to send their children to school. Read one woman’s story of escaping with her family ▸

How bad is the food crisis?
The conflict has caused an escalating food crisis that is threatening to turn into widespread famine. More than 7 million of South Sudan’s 12 million people are at risk of running out of food.

Already nearly 4 million of those people are facing crisis and emergency levels of food insecurity. If the fighting does not stop, the U.N. warns that 50,000 children could die from malnutrition.

Why did the humanitarian situation deteriorate so quickly?
The political and ethnic tensions fueling the recent conflict are not new. Sudan endured a brutal civil war for more than 25 years, which resulted in South Sudan’s independence in 2011, five years after the war ended.

After those decades of conflict, South Sudan was and remains one of the least-developed countries in the world. The larger cities in South Sudan have experienced some development, but the majority of the nation is rural.

More than half of its citizens live in absolute poverty, are dependent on subsistence agriculture and suffer from malnourishment. Many people were refugees and were only beginning to resettle and rebuild their homes.

Because the economy was already fragile before fighting began, people were left with very few resources to help them survive long-term conflict and displacement.

In addition, the country has very little formal infrastructure — roads, buses, buildings — which makes it difficult to transport food and supplies. Many towns and villages become inaccessible during the rainy season due to closed airstrips, washed out roads or lack of roads altogether, sometimes limiting any delivery of humanitarian aid to the isolated areas that need it most.

Where have people fled to?
Almost half a million people have crossed into neighboring countries Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. Inside South Sudan, the crowded U.N. displacement sites are frequently depicted in news about the crisis, but the truth is that only five percent of people who’ve escaped the violence reside in these camps.

The majority of displaced families live outside the camps, wherever they can find safe shelter — often in small villages that offer some security, tucked away from the main areas of fighting. For some living in the most violent areas, there is no other choice but to flee into the bush with what little they can carry with them.

How are people surviving outside of camps?
Many families who fled their homes have had to move two or three times to escape the spreading violence.

Some run into the bush, with their children on their backs and little or nothing else. In the bush, there is often nothing to eat but wild plants like grass, roots and water lilies. But some people would rather face the risk of starving than endure the violence that is rampant in towns and villages.

For others, finding shelter in an isolated, small village, away from the violence, is the best they can hope for. Those villages offer some sense of safety, but there is little in the way of food or supplies — and always the risk that fighting will come and families will have to flee yet again.

Small food rations given out by aid organizations help somewhat, but the rainy season makes deliveries difficult and infrequent — not enough to count on. Mercy Corps is working in small villages providing seeds and tools to help families grow more food where they are living.

Why is there so little food to harvest?
South Sudan has agricultural potential, but due to poor infrastructure and lack of technology, growing enough food to feed everyone in the young nation has never been easy. After decades of struggle, food security was starting to improve before the recent conflict began. In 2013, harvests of staple crops like millet, maize, and sorghum were up 20% (FAO).

Unfortunately, the conflict has disrupted farming and any hard-earned improvements have been lost. Because of the fighting, people who would normally plant crops in the spring were far away from their land, running and hiding from violence — unable to plant. As conflict continues, many families are still far from home and unable to plant seeds, prepare land or harvest their crops.

Can people buy more food?
Food stores are running out and most markets are empty. Traders are too worried about possible attacks to transport food supplies from safer areas.

What little food is available has doubled in price, and most displaced families have no money to buy any goods. These food shortages are the most dire in Unity, Jonglei and Upper Nile states and those and other areas are at risk of famine.

What is life like in camps?
While there may be relative safety in the nine U.N. camps, housing approximately 100,000 people, the conditions there have gone from bad to worse. The bases were not designed to host this many people for so long. Proper sanitation, hygiene and waste disposal are inadequate in such crowded conditions, and the rainy season has now flooded many of the camps, making things even worse.

In some camps, the flooding has collapsed newly-built latrines, and now people must walk through knee-high water that is contaminated with sewage. There have been reports of mothers sleeping standing up, holding their children, because there is nowhere clean to rest. Learn more about conditions at Bentiu camp ▸

What about disease?
Beyond making everyday activities like sleeping and preparing food extremely difficult, the heavy rains and standing water also increase the risk of disease. Communicable and waterborne diseases like cholera and malaria spread quickly in these conditions, and other infections, likely caused by contaminated water, are on the rise.

Children are hungry and thirsty. If they get desperate, they may end up drinking dirty water that could give them an infection. For a young child, an infection can lead to weight loss, severe dehydration and even death. How flooding affects displacement camps ▸

What are the most urgent needs in the camps?
Displaced families receive some food, but there are urgent needs for additional food and disease prevention through better sanitation and access to clean water.

How do we help people in camps stay healthy?
To help prevent an outbreak, better sanitation and clean water are critical. At the Bentiu U.N. base, in the capital of Unity State, we are helping by building latrines and hand-washing stations, teaching proper hygiene and providing clean water.

Building latrines and teaching proper hygiene and waste disposal are the best ways to ensure that water sources stay clean for people to drink, cook and bathe.

What will happen if the fighting continues?
The U.N. has warned that if the fighting doesn’t end soon, half of the nation’s 12 million citizens could be displaced, starving or dead by year’s end.

Without peace, families will remain in hiding away from their homes and their land, unable to plant. There will be little to harvest, and before long the young country will run out of food. The number of people at risk of starvation will continue to rise and the country will undoubtedly slip into famine.

Families will die from starvation, malnutrition and disease.

Is South Sudan getting enough assistance?
The short answer: no.

The U.N. has estimated that it will take $1.8 billion to assist 3.8 million people in need by the end of the year. This effort has only been 51% funded. Many humanitarian organizations, including Mercy Corps, are partnering with the U.N., using both private contributions and funding from the international community, to address the urgent needs of innocent people in South Sudan.

There are many crises we are working to address, but this young and vulnerable country needs more help to avoid further catastrophe and human suffering. What we must do to prevent tragedy ▸

How can we help?
Mercy Corps is working in South Sudan camps to provide desperately-needed latrines, showers, hand-washing stations and clean water to help people survive and prevent the spread of disease.

In the small villages where many people are sheltering, we are rehabilitating living spaces, providing seeds and tools so people can grow food wherever they are living, and implementing cash-for-work programs that will give vulnerable families some money to purchase food.

But the needs of families on the run in South Sudan are increasing, and your support will allow us to do even more.

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