Crisis deepens in South Sudan

21 February 2017

Women and children in South Sudan receiving relief from SUDRA

Famine has now been declared in part of South Sudan. Yesterday the UN and the government stated that 100,000 people in Unity State face starvation, while more than a million are on the verge of famine. This is the first time in six years that the UN has declared famine.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby yesterday issued a statement, in which he said:

“We stand prayerfully alongside the South Sudanese people and their leaders – particularly those in the Church who are providing emotional, physical and spiritual support. We pray for those on the ground who are delivering humanitarian assistance, that there will be an opening up of humanitarian corridors for the aid that is so desperately needed.

“We pray for those who are trying to coordinate efforts to the regions that are most badly affected – particularly through the South Sudan Council of Churches and the Episcopal Church in South Sudan. We applaud the ecumenical efforts of the churches working together to ensure that aid reaches the right people.”

Today the Anglican Alliance hosted a conference call with SUDRA, the relief and development arm of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan. The call, joined by partners from all across the Communion, heard directly from SUDRA’s Manager, Revd Joseph El Haj, about the current situation. He talked about the famine declared in Unity State and said that much of the country was also at risk:

“Over half the people in South Sudan are on the verge of famine – due to drought and the security situation. In Yei and Kajo Keji [and other areas] many people have left their homes and harvests. They are now without food. In Kajo Kaji the markets don’t have food. Many have already moved to Uganda. Others are staying around the churches for safety.”

Revd Joseph described the recent relief work of SUDRA in the Diocese of Yei. SUDRA is working with funds from partners around the Communion, convened through the Anglican Alliance.

In Yei, the SUDRA team assessed the situation and made cash transfers to 180 needy households. The people could then buy food and other essential items in the local market.

Other parts of South Sudan are also critically affected. Shortly the SUDRA team will visit the Diocese of Kajo Keji to assess the needs and respond. Revd Joseph reported on the recent violence in the area, with killings and looting. He said that the majority of the population had already fled to Uganda. Over 50,000 are reported to have fled in the last three weeks.

Meanwhile the conflict is creating a refugee crisis. More than 1.5 million refugees have now fled South Sudan, which is now Africa’s largest refugee crisis and third largest in the world after Syria and Afghanistan. In addition, more than 2.1 million people are also internally displaced, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said last week.

The crisis is seeing less international attention and chronic underfunding. Over 60% of the refugees are children, many arriving with “alarming levels of malnutrition” and suffering trauma, UNHCR said.

Currently, most South Sudan refugees are in Uganda where nearly 700,000 have arrived. 342,000 are reported in Ethiopia, more than 305,000 in Sudan, some 89,000 in Kenya, 68,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 4,900 in the Central African Republic. More will continue to flee South Sudan unless a peaceful resolution is urgently found.

“If there is no room for peace, then famine is close. We are expecting a famine across the country if there is not peace,“ Revd Joseph said.

Archbishop Justin called for prayer: “Please join me in praying for peace, for security, for relief, and for the Holy Spirit to comfort those who need it most.”

The Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan continues to respond to the critical humanitarian need in the country, receiving regular appeals for assistance from different dioceses.

Dr Janice Proud, Anglican Alliance Relief Manager, said: “As the humanitarian situation deteriorates, the Church is with the people, sheltering those who have fled their homes, reaching out to those in need of relief and comfort. Even in surrounding countries the Church is responding, ministering to the displaced, providing relief support, but also offering psychosocial support and training in peace and reconciliation.”

“Today, as on so many of our conference calls, the local church expressed thanks for the support, but above all called for prayer for peace,” Janice added.

Please pray for the peace and for the relief of the people in South Sudan and the refugees.

If you would like to make a donation to support SUDRA’s work through the partner agencies, please see the links to their websites here.