Catholic Relief Services is scaling up its emergency response in South Sudan as continuing conflict and mass displacement threaten the lives of millions of people.
Violence that started in December 2013 has so far killed thousands. More than one million people have been displaced from their homes, tens of thousands of whom have flooded into neighboring countries. Many of those who remain in South Sudan have not been able to plant crops because of insecurity and uncertainty or because they don’t have the seeds and tools they need to do so. Coupled with heavy rains that have washed out roads and made large areas inaccessible, this has put many at risk of starvation. Reports indicate worsening rates of malnutrition among children and the UN has warned of potential famine as early as August.
In the midst of this turmoil, many South Sudanese families are nevertheless working together with CRS in hope and solidarity. CRS is responding to the emergency across three states, and continues to expand its assistance wherever possible.
- In several counties of Jonglei state, which was particularly hit hard by the violence in December, CRS has distributed life-saving food and supplies as well as seeds and tools so that people who can take advantage of the planting season in order to have food later this year. Many thousands of people lost their homes and belongings during attacks; but through their own perseverance and with CRS’ support, they are restarting their lives.
- In Awerial county of Lakes State, CRS has distributed essential supplies to thousands of people who were forced from their homes and now live in makeshift camps along the Nile river. These emergency items include temporary shelter materials, cooking sets and water collection supplies as well as seeds and tools. CRS is also training people on hygiene and sanitation to prevent the outbreak of disease, especially important given the cholera endemic that has shaken many parts of the country.
- In Juba, the capital, a chronic lack of sanitation and clean water triggered a cholera outbreak which has so far claimed more than 60 lives. CRS is working with community volunteers, training them on good hygiene, sanitation and disease prevention so they can take those messages to their communities. It is vital to continue these efforts, especially throughout the rainy season, in order to limit the number of new cases and to encourage people to seek medical attention if they manifest symptoms.
“We are focusing on saving lives right now, but we also continue to help communities and families to build their resilience. We must continue important long-term development in South Sudan so that people can make a better life for themselves and their children, which is really all anybody wants,” Lorraine Bramwell, Country Representative said. “But the most important thing now is to end the fighting – only that will allow markets to rebound and people to get back to their lives”
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, after decades of civil war with its northern neighbor. Throughout that time, the Catholic Church was one of the few institutions to consistently provide social services in the region, keeping schools open, tending to the sick and bringing communities together to resolve conflict. Now more than ever, CRS, along with the Catholic Church, is committed to continue its work on development, peacebuilding and emergency response, and to staying the course for the South Sudanese people.