Crisis in South Sudan

It is the world’s newest country, having only declared its independence three years ago in 2011. It was an uproarious jubilation when nine million people finally found a place in Africa to call home.

Yet, in December 2013, civil war broke out in South Sudan. It was initiated by the desire for political power that quickly turned into ethnic dividing lines. President Salva Kiir accused his sacked deputy, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup. The deposed deputy denied the accusations, but immediately began to rally rebel militias.

The continued fighting has internally displaced 1.1 million Sudanese citizens. It has also raised those that are going hungry to 1.5 million. The number of hungry are expected to rise to 2.5 million by March of 2015 tipping the hunger epidemic to a full-scale famine.

Brokered ceasefires between the Sudanese government and rebel bush fighters have been attempted at several Ethiopian hotels, but as of the moment, no resolutions have been made due to petty grievances and pride.

Alongside this war a killer outbreak of cholera, that has affected thousands of people in South Sudan, has been raging its way across the country. Sue Lautze, head of the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization says, “[it is] the world’s most unfortunate coincidence.”

With the current outbreak of war, disease, and famine more than 100,000 Sudanese people have sought refuge across eight camps run by the UN. However, these camps aren’t without problems of their own. The rainy season in South Sudan can range anywhere from six to nine months.

In Bentiu, the capital of Unity State and one of the most contested cities in South Sudan’s civil war, the camp has been perched on swampland that was never intended to house people. Since July, due to the rains, much of the camp has been knee-deep in sometimes waist-deep in water.

As the rains have flooded the makeshift houses, many of the refugees have resorted to scooping buckets of water out of windows through the night in an attempt to keep the disabled and their children dry. The rains have also destroyed over 200 latrines leaving many to relieve themselves in the open.

Concern Worldwide, together with Danish Refugee Council and Doctors Without Borders, sprang into action when they dug a 2.2 kilometer trench to redirect the floods. It dropped the water level by 25 percent. However, according to Subodh Vijapure, Concern’s water, sanitation, and hygiene manager “It is still inadequate. People are living in sub-human conditions here.”

Despite these conditions the Sudanese people won’t leave. Many have stated that they have nowhere else to go. Stepping outside the camp’s perimeter could result in being shot, or slowly dying from diseases.

Concern Worldwide and its humanitarian partners are mobilizing as quickly as they can to raise the level of sanitation and increase food stock. With the end of the rainy season fast approaching recruitment of child soldiers is on the rise and the intense fighting is expected to resume.

Frederick Wood II

Sources: InterAction, BBC 1, BBC 2, BBC 3, Country Studies
Photo: Flickr