* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Juba, South Sudan (February 17, 2014) – The crisis endured by the people of South Sudan for the past two months will get a lot worse unless relief organizations are able to deliver supplies before they are cut off by the approaching rainy season, the humanitarian group CARE warned this week.
“The United Nations has activated the highest level of emergency for South Sudan and warned of a possible famine in 2015,” said Aimee Ansari, country director for CARE in South Sudan. “This is a wake-up call. If we are not able to act now and get relief flowing, the nightmare endured by South Sudanese families over the past few months will be only the beginning. We need to do everything we can to improve food security and help those suffering get back on their feet, and we need to start now.”
Continued fighting in the countryside despite a cease-fire agreement on 23 January has made it so far impossible to reach many of the more than three quarters of a million people who been displaced in country. CARE’s has moved back into areas hardest hit by the conflict as quickly as possible, providing life-saving services including water and sanitation supplies, and vital health and protection services for women and girls.
As security improves, CARE is bringing badly needed medicines to worst affected areas, and we are conducting assessments to that we can ease the effects of the crisis now affecting more than a million people and projected to affect up to 7 million – more than half the country – over the next five months. Last week, CARE delivered 1,247 kg of medicines to medical facilities in Unity and Jonglei States. CARE water sanitation and hygiene programs are active in three states and the organization’s nutrition activities are just getting under way.
CARE was able to land a chartered plane in Twic East County, Jonglei State, an area where the organization has supported the health system for the past seven years and which had been inaccessible to aid organizations until now. “We took in almost 1,000 kg of the most badly needed medicines, conducted observations and talked to local officials and residents,” said Wouter Schaap, CARE’s Assistant Country Director in South Sudan.
“The number one priority for everyone we talked to was food. They were already hurting from a bad harvest last year due to massive flooding from the White Nile River, and damaged and soggy pastures have wreaked havoc with the livestock they depend on,” Schaap said. “The people here have been virtually cut off from the outside world for two months. So they have exhausted their food stores. On top of that, there has been an influx of more than 31,000 people displaced by fighting in other parts of the state, boosting the local population by more than a third.”
“Many of these people are sleeping without any type of shelter or protection out in the bush along the swamps of the White Nile River,” Schaap said. “It is mostly women and children and malaria is taking a big toll, as are intestinal diseases and respiratory infections. The medicine we are bringing in will help, but these people need mosquito nets, they need food and they soon will need seed and hand tools in order to replenish their depleted food stocks, as well as vaccines for their livestock.” CARE is currently designing projects that will help meet these pressing needs.
The Cessation of Hostilities agreement paved the way for peace talks that began last week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, but analysts have said the negotiations are not expected to result in real peace anytime soon. Even if they did, the country’s already fragile markets and food production systems have experienced major disruptions and the repercussions will be felt for months and years to come.
Ansari said CARE will work to not only ease the current suffering witnessed in many parts of South Sudan. “We will also work to reduce the likelihood of a protracted food crisis that is almost assured if these people are left to fend for themselves.”
“More than three-quarters of a million people have been separated from their homes and livelihoods,” Ms. Ansari said. “Their crops from last year’s late planting have withered and rotted in the fields, and their stocks from the main harvest were seriously depleted by looting and destruction that has accompanied the violence. Their cattle have been driven off or are in poor condition. They are even eating the seed stock that they should be planting. Given the continued insecurity and widespread destruction of infrastructure that has occurred, we face huge logistical challenges getting help to people, and they will get much worse once the rains start by the end of April.”
About CARE: CARE has been operating in Southern Sudan since 1993, initially providing humanitarian relief to internally displaced people in Western Equatoria. The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 allowed CARE to expand into Jonglei and Upper Nile States to support returnees from the refugee camps, and the organization has since broadened its operations to include development programs.
Dan Alder (Nairobi): + 254-0-706 223 998, email@example.com
Laura Sheahen (Atlanta): +1 404 667 8299, firstname.lastname@example.org
Adel Sarkozi (Geneva): +41 793 580 713, email@example.com