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10 Ways to Respond to Ethnic Cleansing in South Sudan
More than two decades after at least 800,000 people were killed in Rwanda, the situation seems poised to repeat itself in the world’s youngest country. More than one million people have fled South Sudan since violence erupted in the country in 2013, creating the largest mass exodus of any Central African conflict since the Rwandan genocide. In light of a new U.N. declaration that the country is on the brink of disaster and that ethnic cleansing is under way, it is imperative that the international community responds differently than it did in 1994. Here are 10 ways that the international community — from leaders to citizens — can respond to ethnic cleansing in South Sudan.

  1. Impose targeted sanctions and an arms embargo
    The United States has pushed for sanctions and an arms embargo against South Sudan, but the U.N. vote on such measures has been pushed back following opposition from Russia, China and others. However, this measure is imperative as it is the simplest and most effective way for the international community to curb ethnic cleansing in South Sudan.
  2. Establish a death toll
    Ivan Šimonović, the U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, stressed the importance of a death toll in 2014. He said public information had the power to “deter continued violations of human rights” and keep communities informed. “Only reliable reporting can help them to reconcile, knowing that both sides have been involved as perpetrators as well as victims,” he said.
  3. Deploy regional protection force
    The U.N. approved the deployment of a regional protection force in August, and South Sudan finally agreed to the deployment in late November. In an editorial for Al Jazeera, three South Sudanese writers stressed the importance of this force, and suggested that its powers included “monitoring, disarming and demobilizing any armed group targeting civilians”.
  4. Establish a hybrid court
    Human rights organizations have expressed concerns that the focus on ethnic cleansing in South Sudan will allow perpetrators of crimes such as destruction of property, rape and murder to go unpunished. Amnesty International has urged the African Union Commission and the South Sudanese government to establish a hybrid court so that all crimes are appropriately prosecuted.
  5. Ensure that new tools and structures put in place to prevent genocide are followed
    World leaders must put structures in place to ensure an effective response to genocide. In the U.S., President Obama had the Atrocities Prevention Board created to facilitate a multilateral response to atrocities and genocide globally. But it is the job of citizens to ensure that these structures function as intended.
  6. Establish an early warning system
    According to Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, an early warning system will help prevent further genocides and ensure that countries are able to respond quickly and effectively when a nation is showing warning signs characteristic of genocide.
  7. Confront Power Vacuum
    Experts believe that the perceived power vacuum that will be left after president Obama leaves office could be a trigger for ethnic cleansing in South Sudan. It is the job of the new administration to confront this vacuum and ensure that the security of human rights remains a global priority.
  8. Keep pressure on political leaders to respond to the crisis in South Sudan
    Congressional leaders must continue to fight to hold human rights abusers to account, and promote peace, by passing bills like the recently-approved Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
  9. Members of the U.N. Security Council- Prioritize genocide prevention in South Sudan
    The United Nations must continue to monitor and prioritize the situation in South Sudan, offering aid, guidance, and resolutions in pursuit of peace.
  10. Media- Prioritize genocide prevention in South Sudan
  11. In 1994, the media failed to give the Rwandan genocide adequate coverage. The media must not make that same mistake by failing to report on the situation in South Sudan.

Eva Kennedy

Photo: Flickr

Uganda Refugees
A landlocked country located between Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda is an East African Nation that has been constantly plagued by violence. Since gaining its independence from Great Britain in 1962, the Ugandan people have been forced to deal with dictatorships, military coups, wars and a 20-year insurgency from the Lord’s Resistance Army.

The nations that border the country of Uganda are additionally tormented with instability and violence which have pushed many people into the country.

Here are 10 interesting facts that you may not know about Uganda refugees:

  1. As of 2016, there are 512,000 documented asylum seekers and refugees in the country of Uganda.
  2. Uganda refugees are slowly outnumbering the current citizen population within Uganda. In Uganda, areas like the Adjumani district expect to see the number of people seeking refuge in the country exceed the number of local inhabitants.
  3. Local farmers are in conflict with Uganda refugees. With Uganda refugee populations increasing every day, many farmers find themselves with little land to grow crops. This is due in part to the fact that the government takes portions of land from farmers in order to make room for the incoming people. This seizing of land for asylum seekers creates internal conflicts between local farmers and people seeking refuge.
  4. Roughly 85% of refugees entering the country are women and children.
  5. Migration into cities has left Uganda refugees at a cultural disadvantage. Although Uganda has warmly welcomed people seeking refuge, cultural barriers still pose a major obstacle to Uganda refugees. Barriers such as language, adapting to Uganda’s culture, stereotypes and general safety simultaneously affect the everyday lives of Uganda refugees.
  6. Uganda has hosted approximately 550,000 refugees as of July 2016. Of the 550,000 refugees, 315,000 are asylum seekers from South Sudan, while an additional 200,000 individuals are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  7. Uganda does not question or interrogate people seeking refuge. With constant violence on the borders of Uganda, millions of people have fled their countries in order to escape unimaginable horrors.
  8. The U.N. Refugee Agency has acknowledged the nation of Uganda as having exceptional policies regarding refugees. In 2006, the country passed a Refugee act that provided refugees with employment, education, right to property, dignity and overall self-sufficiency; Uganda implemented policies that allow people seeking refuge to work in order to contribute to the nation’s economy.
  9. The continuity of violence in areas, like South Sudan, increased refugee migration into Uganda, which has overwhelmed local aid agencies. Overcrowding has become a serious issue in areas like Adjumani, which is home to the Nyumanzi reception center for refugees, as a result. The reception center is supposed to host up to 3,500 individuals; however, overcrowding in Nyumanzi has led to over 8,000 people residing at the reception center.
  10. There are many Uganda refugees that still cling to the idea that they are able to return home and resume the life they once had. A quote from a refugee who fled from Burundi, Cedric Mugisha, states, “In Burundi, I have a life, my life was promising. I miss my family, I don’t know where they are, and I don’t know what happened to my friends.”

Though many refugees have experienced tremendous hardships and trials while fleeing from their homes to Uganda, many positive efforts are underway in order to improve their quality of life. The Uganda government and humanitarian organizations, such as the U.N. Refugee Agency, are continuously providing aid and support for the many Uganda refugees.

Shannon Warren

South Sudan Education Sector
As the world’s newest country, South Sudan has made strong progress in improving its education sector. In just four years, the enrollment of children in primary school has doubled, and the chance for a child in South Sudan to receive schooling has increased by 20 percent in the past decade. South Sudan’s Alternate Education System is also helping over 200,000 youth and adults catch up on their education.

Unfortunately, education in the country is still considered among the worst in the world. The adult literacy rate is only 27 percent and 70 percent of children ages 6-17 have never set foot in a classroom. The dropout rate for children in their first six years of primary education is 60 percent.

Overcrowded primary schools are extremely common and qualified teachers are few and far between. Only 15 percent of teachers in South Sudan are qualified with just three out of five teachers receiving a salary from the government.

In a World Bank article, the Country Director for South Sudan stated that in order to catch up with the rest of Africa, South Sudan needs consistent investment in classrooms, more schools in rural areas, more trained teachers and an efficient distribution of educational resources.

In order to make those improvements and boost education in South Sudan, USAID has implemented various programs and projects benefiting both students and teachers across the country.

USAID has greatly improved the accessibility of education in South Sudan. The Agency has contributed to the construction and rehabilitation of 140 primary schools and five secondary schools across the country.

In the past five years, the Agency has awarded over 9,000 scholarships to girls and disadvantaged boys who were previously unable to afford secondary education.

USAID’s South Sudan Teacher Education Program is helping to improve teacher qualification through in-service training and the implementation of a curriculum and professional teaching standards.

In 2012, the Agency provided technical assistance for the drafting and passage of South Sudan’s General Education Bill. According to a member of South Sudan’s National Legislative Assembly, “The bill provides for compulsory and free education for all citizens of the country through primary level.”

Although education in South Sudan is improving, there is still a lot of ground to make up. Organizations like USAID, UNICEF and the World Bank are working with the government of South Sudan to develop a stronger, self-sustaining education system.

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: Flickr

Water quality in South Sudan

Water quality in South Sudan and clean water access has been a problem for a long time. However, Japan is trying to help with the Project for Improvement of Water Supply System in Juba.

Since 2012, Japan has been contributing money to the Republic of South Sudan—$310 million—in order to promote the development of a clean water supply.

Valentino Achak Deng’s Story

Valentino Achak Deng, subject of  the 2007 novel “What Is the What,” describes his childhood in the Republic of South Sudan. His story evokes empathy and increases awareness of the country’s living conditions.

Here is an example:

I […] immerse my jerry can in the milky brown water. I fill the container, but am not satisfied with the amount of sediment inside.

Previously, Deng used to run to the river without a thought in order to fetch water for a woman he liked. The passage went on to describe Deng filtering the water through his shirt into a bowl. This process was normal for Deng—there was no question that the water he drank would come from the river.

The Water Situation Today

The water situation in Sudan has not changed since Deng’s childhood. South Sudan’s 2010 Household Health Survey (SHS) found that only about 5.6 percent of households in have access to improved water sources and sanitation.

In Juba, the capital of the Republic of South Sudan, 13 percent of its residents can access municipal water. This water comes through either a small piped network, boreholes or a single public water filling station on the riverbank. Without clean water access, many of the Sudanese people end up fetching water from rivers, ponds and open wells.

Fetching water is the norm in the Republic of South Sudan—a behavior that must be broken. Otherwise, the population of the Republic of South Sudan will continue to catch water-borne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea. In addition, women and children will continue to lose time for employment and education opportunities.

Individuals used this contaminated water for drinking, food preparation and hygiene. As a result, the SHS found that poor water quality in South Sudan contributed to about 88 percent of deaths from diarrhea.

Japanese Assistance

Fixing this problem will require considerable funds. To address the cost increase, the Japanese government allocated an additional $40 million toward the project. With this, they intend on keeping the original project scale.

Through this project, Japan aims to provide easily accessible clean water to 60 percent of Juba’s population. An estimated 390,000 Juba residents will have clean water access by the end of September 2017.

Japan also encourages the women and children of Juba to spend more time on their personal and professional development rather than collecting water for their families.

However, because fetching water from rivers has been the norm in Sudanese behavior, community engagement is vital in this process. This improvement in water quality in South Sudan is vital, and it will vastly improve the lives of Sudanese citizens.

Alice Gottesman

Photo: Flickr

South Sudan_Malaria
Malaria is a severe yet treatable disease caused by a parasite that infects a certain type of mosquito, which then feeds on humans, passing the parasite along. Its symptoms include fevers, chills, headaches, muscle aches, tiredness, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In 2015, South Sudan faced a severe malaria upsurge across the country.

To understand what it feels like to have malaria, read the following passage:
“I awoke to what felt like lightning going through my legs, and then spreading through my body and in my head. Probably the worst headache, body aches and chills you could possibly imagine. It felt like I was being stung repeatedly by an electric shock gun and could barely control my movements. The pain was so intense; I actually believed I was dying, literally crying out in pain so bad that I was taken to a 24-hour clinic that night at 3 a.m.”

This was how millions of people in South Sudan felt throughout the malaria upsurge in 2015 and how many will continue to feel. Even though malaria is a treatable and preventable disease, not everyone was guaranteed treatment during the upsurge. Without treatment, there was no way to ensure that those infected would survive or be cured.

In January 2016, the United Nations Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) found that about 1.6 million cases of malaria had already been reported throughout the season. This finding meant that some areas of South Sudan had more than quadrupled their numbers from same period last year.

South Sudan was and continues to struggle to supply its residents with enough malaria medication. Nurse Matthew Deng was quoted in an interview with Al Jazeera English at the Public Healthcare Clinic (PHCC) in Nyamlell and noted, “We don’t always have drugs for malaria because everything is supplied by the Ministry of Health. The last batch of medication we received was in November, but for this month we haven’t received anything.”

He went on to say that the center was given 2,000 paracetamol tablets to treat those suffering, but while the supply was expected to last the month, it only lasted one week.

In response to the malaria upsurge, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supplied over 635,000 doses of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT)—a treatment for malaria—to Western and Central Equatorial states through the Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services project and through the DELIVER project.

USAID additionally supports South Sudan’s National Malaria Control Program with pharmaceutical technical assistance. They work to ensure that ACT, other malaria commodities (e.g. insecticide-treated nets) and rapid diagnostic tests are provided to pregnant women and children under the age of five. Through these programs, 155,000 children under five were treated and nearly 40,000 pregnant women received medicine in the fiscal year of 2015.

Despite preventative efforts, the malaria upsurge continues. OCHA estimated that an additional $4 million is needed to assist in the distribution of mosquito nets and anti-malarial medication throughout South Sudan. Although preventative steps have been taken, more are required for the citizens of South Sudan.

Alice Gottesman

Photo: Flickr

famine in south sudan
According to the World Food Programme, 2.8 million people are experiencing famine in South Sudan. That is roughly one-fourth of the country’s population.

With the country on the brink of famine, approximately half the population or 6 million people will need humanitarian assistance or protection.

As the world’s youngest country, South Sudan has been facing serious difficulty since civil war broke out. It was less than three years old when the violence escalated. As a result, more than 2 million people, one-fifth of the country’s population have been displaced, with over 700,000 of the displaced seeking refuge in neighboring countries.

The displacement has prevented farming in a country with favorable climate and adequate rainfall as farming takes time and planning in one place.

SOLUTIONS

One short-term solution to addressing the imminent famine in South Sudan is to increase relief aid. Fortunately, the United States provided $86 million of relief aid for South Sudan on April 27, 2016.

However, other factors continue to negatively impact relief efforts. Extortion takes place at illegal checkpoints throughout the country. In addition, at least 52 relief workers have lost their lives since the civil war broke out.

On April 13, 2016, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated: “[M]aintaining a spirit of cooperation will be crucial as the country’s leaders begin the work of reversing the years of destruction this conflict has brought upon the people of South Sudan.”

On the other hand, ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY) has expressed misgivings on any peace deals, stating for that the South Sudan peace deal in August of 2015 was signed by “the political elites who created this conflict in the first place . . . and has little to do with the millions of people who have been affected.”

Therefore, the remedy requires something more than just food and funding because South Sudan has extensive means to feed its population.

The long-term answer to addressing the famine in South Sudan is unquestionably peace.

Roughly 16,000 child soldiers have been recruited while South Sudan has the world’s lowest rate of children ages 5-16 in school. As the United Nations and U.S. law-makers suggest, effectively establishing peace is of the utmost importance for this country.

Jonathan L. Hull

Photo: Flickr

Cofee_farmers_sustainability

This April, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced it would contribute $3.18 million to foster the growth of South Sudan’s coffee industry. This investment is a continuation of Nespresso’s and TechnoServe’s efforts that began in 2011, according to a spokesperson for the USAID.

Focus on Local Farmers

Nespresso and TechnoServe work with local farmers to ensure efficient coffee production occurs while progressing South Sudan’s commercial channels.

This program will continue for three years and will focus on increasing local coffee farmers’ income while alleviating poverty levels.

An example of the work already being done by Nespresso and TechnoServe is the creation of South Sudan’s first wet mills. These wet mills serve the function of processing coffee cherries into coffee beans.

Nespresso’s spokesperson, George Clooney, has opined that grassroot developments are the first steps toward ensuring a country’s economic sustainability.

Further, this investment will enable further training for local farmers and the USAID has the goal of reaching 1,500 farmers, 25 percent of whom are women.

A Crece study in Colombia demonstrated the effectiveness of Nespresso’s work showcasing that local farmers in Colombia experienced 41 percent increased economic output.

The international nonprofit organization named The Rainforest Alliance, describes Crece as a study, “analy[zing] the impact that the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program has had in the lives of coffee farmers in Colombia during the period 2009 to 2011.”

Bringing South Sudan to the Coffee Market

When describing Colombian farms specifically, Nespresso stated, “…farms outperformed a control group of non-member farms in three areas.” These areas include higher environmental values and higher social impact.

Through training of farmers, leaders of the Nespresso organization hope to alleviate poverty and act as the first brand to offer coffee from South Sudan.

A local farmer describing the benefits received from the program told USAID, “We can now afford to take our children to good schools and meet the basic needs of the family. This wouldn’t have been possible without that technical support.”

Mayra Vega

Photo: Flickr

Aid to South SudanSeventy-four years after its initial founding, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) continues to advocate for refugees and at-risk populations across the globe by combining immediate aid and relocation services with long term educational and developmental support for displaced persons.

One of the IRC’s longest service commitments has been its 20-year history of delivering aid to South Sudan.

South Sudanese citizens voted overwhelmingly for independence from Sudan in July 2011 following the fragile, internationally-brokered 2005 peace deal that ended years of civil war. According to BBC, it was Africa’s longest-running civil war, having started in 1983.

Unfortunately, independence did not bring peace for South Sudan. The country plunged into crisis in December 2013 due to a power struggle between the president, Salva Kiir, and former vice president Riek Machar. By the time a tentative, internationally-mediated peace agreement was signed in August 2015, fighting between government troops and rebel factions had lead to tens of thousands of deaths and prompted more than 2.2 million people to flee their homes.

Political rivalry, ethnic violence and disagreements over oil revenues perpetuate the cycle of instability, poverty and hunger.

In a recent article entitled, “South Sudan: Where the Soldiers Are Scarier Than the Crocodiles,” New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristoff points out that South Sudan has received little to no media attention. He says that according to official studies, the death toll and suffering in South Sudan is just as great as in Syria.

Despite the severity of the situation, increasing aid to South Sudan remains a challenge. The United Nations appeal for financial assistance in the country is only three percent funded and many aid groups have withdrawn just as violence and need is escalating.

In an effort to combat inaction, the IRC continues to aid South Sudan’s most at-risk populations and invest in the country’s potential for redevelopment. The organization currently provides urgently needed medical care, water and sanitation services to refugees from regions afflicted by ongoing fighting. In regions where fighting has subsided, the IRC provides returning refugees with counseling, job training and education on their rights as citizens.

Protection for vulnerable women and girls also remains a top priority, and survivors of sexual violence are provided with medical, psychosocial and legal support. Additionally, the IRC runs clinics and trains local health workers to provide basic health care.

To promote education, the IRC constructs classrooms, trains teachers and works with Sudanese educators to improve educational policy and administration.

To an attempt to improve government accountability, the IRC trains community leaders and government officials on the importance of upholding human rights. Through research and advocacy, the committee strives to educate governments and citizens around the globe on the urgency of South Sudan’s state.

While the end of instability and violence in South Sudan seems far away, attention from groups like the IRC and from the international community can help increase aid to South Sudan and inspire effective solutions to suffering.

Taylor Resteghini

South Sudan
The Global Partnership for Education, an organization that builds education systems in developing and war-torn countries, is collaborating with USAID to focus on education for girls in South Sudan.

Educational opportunities are extremely limited for girls due to a combination of cultural biases and armed conflict.

“The situation is especially alarming since women and girls in South Sudan are more likely to die during childbirth than complete primary education,” according to the Education National Statistics Booklet 2012 and the South Sudan Statistical Yearbook.

The world’s newest country, South Sudan, is in a time of crisis. Not only are basic services such as education fragmented but children are at risk of forced labor, extreme poverty and are subjected to the violence around them.

A six-year program funded by the British government, Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS), operates on the belief that educating girls is an important aspect of relieving severe poverty in communities. It began in April 2013 and will continue until September 2018 to raise awareness about the issue, provide financial support and work with policymakers.

With the support of organizations like GESS, Global Partnership seeks to build 25 girl-friendly schools in South Sudan’s neediest regions. Out of 10,000 anticipated students, 3,000 are expected to be girls.

In order to remedy the cultural aspects that serve as a barrier to girls’ education, separate wash facilities will be provided for them and teachers will receive training to foster a gender-sensitive environment. In addition, the national curriculum will be revised and new textbooks provided.

“A focus on education in these countries promotes peacebuilding and conflict mitigation, and can foster economic growth,” explained Global Partnership.

Since joining the Global Partnership in 2012, South Sudan has received a $36.1 million grant for the education program that is implemented by UNICEF South Sudan. Additionally, a $66 million grant was provided by USAID. Establishing education systems is helping to provide a sense of stability and hope for the future for South Sudan.

Emily Ednoff

Sources: Global Partnership for Education, GESS
Photo: Flickr

malnutrition_in_south_sudan
UNICEF and the World Food Programme announced recently that volunteers will go door to door over the next 12 months in an effort to screen 250,000 children for acute malnutrition in South Sudan.

The initiative will target households in the state of Warrap in Buhr el Ghazi, where an estimated 26,000 children are thought to suffer from life-threatening cases. Volunteers have been chosen from local communities and trained by the state Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF and WFP.

“Visiting every single home will help ensure that children who are malnourished or sick will be referred for treatment and will receive life-saving care,” said Vilma Tyler, Chief of Nutrition for UNICEF in South Sudan.

The announcement comes just as the recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification warns that the situation in some areas of the country could escalate to famine levels if humanitarian assistance isn’t delivered by December. Nearly 238,000 children in South Sudan are currently experiencing Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).

Widespread food insecurity in the newly formed country has been the result of ongoing conflict between various rebel groups and the fledgling South Sudanese governing body.

Civil war came to a head in Juba in 2013 amidst ethnically motivated attacks, civilian massacres, and the displacement of over 750,000 children as people fled their homes to escape the violence.

Record food prices caused by the resulting economic downturn and unreliable rainy seasons have exacerbated an already dire problem; the number of children facing SAM doubled from the previous year.

With time running out, volunteers are working quickly to triage those in need. Children at risk of starvation will receive treatment at UNICEF-supported health facilities and outpatient therapeutic programs while caregivers will be offered guidance on how to keep children healthy through nutrition, hygiene and sanitation practices.

For children with SAM, initial treatment often means utilizing Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) – 500kcal spreads containing essential amino acids, lipids, and minerals – as their sole nutritional intake.malnutrition_in_South_Sudan

UNICEF is hoping to build on the progress it made in 2014 by prioritizing three strategic objectives: continuing humanitarian intervention in UN Protection of Civilian (PoC) and Internally Displaced Person (IDP) sites, scaling up its Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) in hard to reach locations and supporting capacity building by engaging community-based organizations.

Until March 2014, UNICEF primarily operated within United Nations’ PoC and IDP sites, which sheltered only a fraction of the 800,000 people displaced by conflict. Ethnic and gender-based harassment and shifting security situations prevented volunteers and specialists from reaching 90 percent of at-risk individuals across the country.

Still, for 90,000 people, life-saving treatment and sustainable training came just in time. In addition to nutrition services, children benefited from guidance on sanitation and hygiene and were enrolled in school.

The development of RRM revolutionized UNICEF’s reach in the country. Mobile teams of specialists are now equipped to deploy to locations previously inaccessible because of deteriorated security.

During the 34 missions these teams conducted last year, more than 500,000 additional people were screened, and the number of children receiving life-saving treatment for SAM climbed to 93,000.

These teams are also equipped to collect more extensive data on the ground and to implement warning systems, which will alert them to return to communities when progress begins to reverse. UNICEF is hopeful that by ramping up RRM capabilities, they will continue to see more patients.

To prevent recurring cases, UNICEF will step up engagement with community-based organizations with a focus on capacity building. Last year, the organization worked with 88 local organizations to train around 1,900 partners on SAM treatment, infant and young child feeding, and nutrition surveys.

It also supported local working groups seeking to maintain progress in affected areas and engaged the government of South Sudan on water sanitation and national planning.

These efforts will be critical to ensuring that sustainable development continues even after these next 12 months, and UNICEF is hopeful that, for children in South Sudan, it will.

Ron Minard

Sources: IpcInfo 1, IpcInfo 2, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2
Photo: Flickr, Wikipedia