14 February 2014: More than three million people risk going hungry in South Sudan as the full cost of the country’s conflict becomes clear, warns Plan International.
Aid workers for children’s organisation Plan are helping thousands of survivors fleeing conflict and facing food shortages in the country with life-saving food, water and protection.
Real humanitarian disaster
“While the current numbers of displaced people and refugees are already shocking, the real humanitarian disaster is looming in the near future. If these people cannot go back to their fields by March or April when the rains are supposed to start, they will lose their opportunity to grow food to feed themselves and produce food for the market,” says Roland Angerer, Plan’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa.
A lack of food is a major concern in South Sudan.
“Seasonal floods and further violence might amplify human suffering,” he adds.
Nearly 900,000 villagers, over 10 % of the entire population, have fled fighting in the world’s newest nation, some to neighbouring countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.
Concerns are growing for women and children, who have borne the brunt of displacement. Conditions are particularly poor in Awerial County where families have fled fighting in Bor, Jonglei State.
Achuoth, 35, is the mother of nine children. She is one of the internally displaced people (IDPs) at Minkamman camp in Awerial County of central South Sudan, where more than 84,000 people have taken refuge from the fighting in Bor.
Not enough food
Achuoth has a three month old daughter who is ill, but she says she does not have enough food to produce milk.
“I don’t even have any milk to breastfeed my child,” she said. “It’s been three days since we had a meal. We missed the first round of food distribution, so we’re waiting, hoping we’ll get some food in the next round. We don’t have a place to sleep, I use the small tent with my ill baby, but the rest of my children share a small mat out in the open.”
“My husband is a soldier and he stayed back in Bor. When we were back at home [in Bor] life was much better for me and my children. We used to eat and sleep well. My husband was getting a salary to support us, but when trouble started people were thinking about fighting and their security.”
Plan has deployed an international team to help aid workers already on the ground with their emergency response.
“We’re focusing on immediate concerns of child protection, water, sanitation, food and education and emotional support,” says Mr Angerer.
“Many children have been separated from families and caregivers, which makes them more vulnerable to violence, trafficking and abuse. As the world begins to shift its focus from South Sudan, now is the very time that it needs our help. It’s important that we don’t forget the people in their hour of need.”
Unni Krishnan, Plan International head of Disaster Response and Preparedness, adds: “The UN’s declaration of the crisis as a Level Three emergency should serve as a wakeup call for donors and philanthropists worldwide to mobilise urgent support for South Sudan.
“Donors need to be generous. The plight of children and others impacted by the conflict in South Sudan call for their urgent attention.”
Plan has launched a US$10 million emergency appeal to help, and aims to reach thousands of displaced children and their families with food, clean water, hygiene and sanitation, child friendly spaces and psychosocial support.