Food and water is there for those who are suffering, but military blocks the way. See our photo gallery
War, drought and disease are conspiring against the people of South Sudan. The United Nations has declared parts of the country a famine zone.
But as bad as the situation is, it is only a part of a widening food crisis in Africa. “For the first time since anyone can remember, there is a very real possibility of four famines — in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen — breaking out at once, endangering more than 20 million lives,” according to a report in Monday’s New York Times.
Drought is causing famine in South Sudan, says Roland Hansen of Malteser International, but the military conflict is contributing as well. Militants from one side or the other come into villages and often torch houses. People don’t plant their crops, and “everything is lost for the year,” said Hansen, head of Regional Group Africa/Senior Program Advisor for the humanitarian aid arm of the Order of Malta.
“They are leaving the countryside into the cities, into centers where they get fed by the UN and organizations like Malteser International.” Unfortunately, some people don’t make it to those centers, as they are “harassed by conflicting parties” on the road and “have to hide in the bushes,” he said. Some have been displaced two or three times already.
Disease also plays a role. In Wau, the second largest city in South Sudan, there are now 45,000 internally displaced persons living in camps, Hauser said. “It’s very congested, so there is a very high risk of diseases,” he said.
In some cities, like Juba, the capital, there’s been inflation of up to 900 percent, adding to people’s difficulty to feed themselves.
South Sudan was founded just a few years ago, breaking away from Sudan after decades of conflict between Muslim north and Christian south. “But it’s very weak and has no structure and no developed governance,” Hansen lamented. “Only three years after the secession, conflicts started between different factions of the former rebels. They used to be rebels, but not trained politicians, not trained bureaucrats. In my opinion we left this new country too early alone. There should have been a much stronger UN support to build a government structure. Now we have a disaster that they don’t understand each other anymore—different ethnic groups that never liked each other…. The international community and the African Union have to do more investment in peace negotiations.”
According to the Times report, aid officials say there is enough food and water to help those suffering in these countries. “But armed conflict that is often created by personal rivalries between a few men turns life upside down for millions, destroying markets and making the price of necessities go berserk,” it said.
In South Sudan, both rebel forces and government soldiers are intentionally blocking emergency food and hijacking food trucks, aid officials say. On Saturday, six aid workers were killed, complicating relief efforts even further. Entire communities are marooned in malarial swamps trying to survive off barely chewable lotus plants and worm-infested swamp water.
To try to address the situation, Malteser is supporting the church in the city of Wau, where IDPs are living in the church compound. “We use also the agricultural plot of the church to grow food that we provide to the people there,” Hansen said. The organization also tries to help children go to school and feed them there.
“They can get together with other children and have a bit of a normal life,” he said. “Otherwise, many of them are traumatized because of displacement. They often see how people are killed. So in the schools they are in kind of a protected environment.”
The organization is also supporting some of the 1.2 million refugees from South Sudan in Congo and in Uganda.
Pope Francis has expressed interest in visiting South Sudan later this year, and this week the pontiff called on all involved in the ongoing conflict to “commit not to stop at making statements, but also to provide concrete food aid and to allow it to reach suffering populations.” Recently, the bishops of the country said that “killings, rapes, forced displacement, attacks on churches and destruction of property continue throughout the country. Discrimination takes place on the basis of ethnicity, and those who are perceived to be ‘enemies’ are ‘killed, raped, tortured, burned, beaten, robbed, harassed, imprisoned, forced to abandon their homes and prevented from harvesting their crop.’“
Fides news agency said the government has called on refugees to go back to their villages, but many of these, the bishops say, “have become scorched earth,” while several cities have become “ghost towns, emptied of their inhabitants with the exception of the security forces and, perhaps, of members of a faction or tribe.”
Catholic Relief Services has been providing food aid to some 800,000 people in Jonglei State in the central part of South Sudan, where levels of hunger and malnutrition are not far below the areas where famine has been declared. In Uganda, CRS has also rapidly mounted a response to assist South Sudanese pouring over the border seeking refuge from hunger and violence. CRS and its partners are focusing on sanitation and hygiene to prevent illness and disease, as well as materials and assistance in building shelters. An estimated 2,000 South Sudanese per day continue to cross into Uganda.
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A Sudanese student drinks and washes her face at a new water fountain built at the Omer El-Mukthar primary school for girls. Over 500 volunteers gathered to renovate the primary school. UN Photo by Fred Noy CC
Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) Chairperson Festus Mogae visits Malakal where many Catholic women voiced their concerns. UN Photo by JC McIlwaine CC
El Fasher: Sheij Aldine Abdala is a staff member at the Sudanese Association for Disabled People in El Fasher, North Darfur, in charge of repairing all prostheses fabricated abroad and donated by external organizations for disabled people. Sheij Aldine explains he is the only person in Darfur able to fix technical problems when prostheses don't fit properly or they break down. Photo by Albert González Farran, UNAMID
Khor Abeche: A sick displaced woman recovers inside the UNAMID base in Khor Abeche, South Darfur. According to the community leaders, more than 3,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) still remain inside the Mission's compound, following the attack that they suffered by an armed group on March 22. About 300 heavily armed men attacked the IDP camp, setting fire to dozens of shelters and stealing livestock belonging to the residents. The World Food Programme (WFP) have already distributed food (sorghum) to the IDPs and the UNAMID base provide potable water and health care, while a team of 35 UNAMID engineers are currently constructing a 70,000 m2 Buffer Zone, with watch towers, solar lights, two community centers and latrines at the vicinity of the base, where the IDPs will be able to securely settle in the near future. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran, UNAMID.
Mellit: Two women build the fence of a shelter in the Alabassi camp for Internally Displaced People (IDP), in Mellit, North Darfur.Government forces and armed movements clashed in the area on 13 March.Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran, UNAMID
6 April 2014. Khor Abeche: A displaced mother and her child inspect the remnants of their burnt house in Khor Abeche, South Darfur.
According to the community leaders, more than 3,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) still remain inside the UNAMID base, following the attack that they suffered by an armed group on March 22.
About 300 heavily armed men attacked the IDP camp, setting fire to dozens of shelters and stealing livestock belonging to the residents.
The World Food Programme (WFP) have already distributed food (sorghum) to the IDPs and the UNAMID base provide potable water and health care, while a team of 35 UNAMID engineers are currently constructing a 70,000 m2 Buffer Zone, with watch towers, solar lights, two community centers and latrines at the vicinity of the base, where the IDPs will be able to securely settle in the near future.
Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran, UNAMID
South Sudanese Catholics celebrate Mass at El Fasher church in North Darfur,Sudan. Photo by Olivier Chassot
El Fasher: A woman with her children rides a donkey around a new settlement in Zam Zam camp for Internally Displaced People (IDP), North Darfur. Sudan.According to the community leaders and the International Organization for Migration, for the last two weeks more than 7,000 people have settled in this new area in Zam Zam IDP camp, coming from their own villages between the outskirts of El Fasher and Korma.According to OCHA, a new wave of violence across all Darfur has forced an estimated 200,000 people to flee their homes since the beginning of this year.Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran, UNAMID
An event was held in Protection of Civilians site 3 in Juba on May 21, 2016 to cap a week of workshops held under the theme "Unite 4 Heritage - Building Identity and Belonging for the Past, Present, and Future". UN Photo by JC McIlwaine CC
El Fasher: A woman with her baby next to her shelter at the new settlement in Zam Zam camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), in North Darfur,Sudan. Most of the new IDPs arrived recently from Labado and Muhajeria, East Darfur, as a result of clashes between the Sudan Liberation Army - Mini Minawi and the Government of Sudan. This new settlement in Zam Zam is only occupied by women and children. Photo by Albert González Farran - UNAMID
Sunset in the Abyei suburb of Molomol, where individual voluntary returnees from North Sudan are settling. UN Photo by JC McIlwaine CC
Members of the UNMISS Chinese Battalion (ChnBatt) perform a kung fu demonstration in Protection of Civilians site 3 in Juba, and donate balls to be used at the sporting ground. UN Photo by JC McIlwaine CC
An airdrop brings much needed resources to the local Sudanese people. UN Photo by Eskinder Debebe CC
A family stands in wait of the delivery of supplies arriving in the afternoon. UN Photo by Eskinder Debebe CC
Nyala: Suleiman Abbakar, a displaced man from Gassa, South Darfur, is pictured in El Sereif camp for Internally Displaced People (IDP), in Nyala, South Darfur. He arrived few months ago to the camp fleeing from the tribal clashes in his original village.Photo by Albert González Farran, UNAMID
El Fasher: Builder Hamada Suleiman Khater, working on the construction of a new house in Amsijera area, in El Fasher (North Darfur).Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran - UNAMID
Tawilla: Internally displaced persons (IDP) settled in Dali camp, next to Tawilla (North Darfur), are currently farming the lands rented by local owners for the rainy season. Most of these IDPs came recently to Tawilla fleeing from the clashes in Shangle Tubaya at the beginning of 2011. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran - UNAMID
Shangle Tubaya: Nifasha IDP Camp. More than 30,000 people live in this IDP Camp from different tribes (Fur, Zagawa, Tunjuru, Mima, Tama, Arabs...). The lack of food and water is the main concern. In the picture, from left to right, Adam Mohammed Ahmad Adam (4 years old), his father Mohamed Ahmad Adam (40) and a relative, Ali Mohamed Ahmad (38), all originally from Ambowatta, a village near Kaye. No adults in the family have job. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID
Kaltoum Adam Imam with one of her five children collects millet in a land rented by a community leader in Saluma Area, near El Fasher (North Darfur). She works with her sister Sadias (in background). Both are from Tarne village (some kilometers away) and they emigrated to Saluma due to security reasons. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID
Children in the school in Arabashir village near El Fasher, North Dafur. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID
A family travels to El Fasher to the IPD Camp. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID
A community of Sudanese refugees returned to their homes in the village of Seraf Jedad, West Darfur.
Pictured is a child from the village. Photo by Albert Gonazalez Farran
El Fasher: A farmer and leader of the local community in Madjoub, North Darfur, Sudan inspects a dry dam in the locality.
Photo by Albert González Farran, UNAMID