The Republic of South Sudan declared independence on July 11, 2011 after a 40-year civil war. Now, South Sudan celebrates a bitter third birthday as the region is as dangerous as it has been for decades.
Fighting broke out in the capital city of Juba in December 2013 and the situation has deteriorated since then. Reports estimate that thousands of people have died while 1.5 million people have been displaced due to conflict. The U.N. Security Council has reported an even more sober statistic: over half of the 12 million people who comprise the population of South Sudan will be attempting to relocate, facing starvation or death by the end of 2014.
By all accounts the tragedy is palpable, especially in the capital of South Sudan. Streets that were once filled are now quiet and many girls report they do not attend school because they are too scared to travel there.
The problem that looms above all else for South Sudan is that of malnutrition and dehydration. Malnutrition has had an impact on hundreds of thousands and children under 5 are at the highest risk of fatalities. Additionally, dehydration is leading to a near epidemic of cholera in South Sudan, with children under 5 again suffering a high mortality rate. Up to 75 percent of the population in Jonglei, Unity and the Upper Nile face the threat of death by malnutrition.
UNICEF and the United World Food Programme (WFP) have responded to this crisis by increasing initiatives aimed at curbing malnutrition and dehydration. The joint effort is spearheaded by a Rapid Response Mechanism that will fly teams into remote areas within the country to provide humanitarian aid in otherwise unlikely locations. The teams will deploy supplies like water, sanitation goods and hygiene supplies typically via airdrop.
Emergency workers will land on the ground and help in a one-on-one capacity by providing nutritional supplements to children under 5 who are at risk of becoming malnourished. These workers will also identify children who have been separated from their families and make an effort to reunite them. Fifteen missions have been deployed already and they hope to ramp up efforts and have up to as many as 30 a month beginning in July.
If UNICEF and the WFP have taken the necessary emergency steps, USAID has provided some of the building blocks for long-term support for South Sudan with their Let Girls Learn initiative. The international campaign is a response to the Boko Harem kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian girls earlier in the year. In South Sudan, USAID has committed to providing education for 150,000 people with some 60,000 of those being women. USAID has also created programs where women can learn to be teachers and improve their professional skills.