South Sudan: The forgotten crisis in Jonglei State
South Sudan is currently in the midst of its first humanitarian crisis since it became an independent state in 2011. With violent conflict causing people to flee their homes, millions of people now also face starvation.
People are facing huge food shortages as stocks have been exhausted, looted or shared amongst vulnerable communities. Many people are still afraid to cultivate their land because they were uncertain about the future, forcing even those that have returned home into dependency on government rations.
“We just want peace to come so that we can go back to our ways, like the cultivation we used to do,” says Akur, an older woman living at Luedir Village in Bor.
Furthermore, waterborne diseases from contaminated water, including cholera and typhoid, are an increasing risk, particularly as 80% of the population depend on water from boreholes. An estimated 35% of boreholes have actually been destroyed.
Jonglei State has the highest number of internally displaced people and the highest level of food insecurity and malnutrition in famine-threatened South Sudan, according to a joint assessment by HelpAge International and Islamic Relief.
There are currently 1.3 million people internally displaced across South Sudan. According to UNOCHA, approximately 790,000 are in Jonglei State alone. Of those, it is estimated that at least 63,000 are older men and women.
Over 450,000 South Sudanese have been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.
The joint assessment shows that the most vulnerable people including people with special needs such as older people, children, and pregnant and lactating mothers have been hit the hardest by this major crisis. Older people have found it difficult to flee due to mobility problems and many have been killed as a result.
Islamic Relief’s East Africa Regional Director, Yusuf Ahmed, says: “The situation in South Sudan is amongst the most grave in the world today. Millions face starvation, and many have been driven from their homes. Jonglei is one of the worst affected areas.
“Despite the scale and depth of the crisis, humanitarian programmes remain hugely underfunded. Much more is needed to enable organisations like Islamic Relief and HelpAge to get vital aid to those that need it the most.”
HelpAge International is providing non-food items (NFIs) such as blankets, mosquito nets, mattresses, plastic mats and washing soap to older people who have been displaced by the conflict in Juba.
Islamic Relief is delivering urgent aid in South Sudan, with emergency teams responding since the outbreak of fighting in December 2013. Its relief effort includes distributing food and essential medical supplies and mosquito nets – as well as hygiene kits and shelter supplies. Islamic Relief has also constructed wells, latrines and bathrooms.