April 9th, 2014

Crisis in South Sudan


South Sudan is the world’s youngest state. After its independence in 2011, the South Sudanese people hoped their new country would have a brighter future, and could move forward from the long-term conflict and marginalisation they faced as part of the Republic of Sudan. They knew they would have struggles and that building up a new nation would be a long and difficult journey, but expectations were high and it seemed they had strong supporters in the international community. However, South Sudan has been facing renewed crisis since December, when the current president Salva Kiir, of the Dinka tribe, accused the former vice president, Riek Machar, a Nuer, and other officials of plotting a coup. Fighting between government troops and rebel factions erupted into widespread violence with devastating humanitarian impact: USAID Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg has said that the huge development gains in South Sudan since its independence have been wiped out in just over 100 days.  Approximately 3.7 million people are at severe risk of starvation. This is one-third of the total South Sudanese population, said Juba-based UN assistant secretary-general Toby Lanzer.


As the fighting stretches on into a fourth month, over one million Sudanese people have been forced to leave their homes. Some are sheltering across 174 different displacement sites within South Sudan, while 254,600 have fled to neighbouring countries, including Uganda, Kenya and Sudan. Across the country, more than 3.7 million people are in danger of starvation and in desperate need of life-saving humanitarian assistance. Nyanget Bol, 35, had to walk for 10 days before she arrived in Ethiopia; “I had no food, only leaves from trees,” she said while breastfeeding her baby. She has already lost one child, a four-year-old daughter, during the 10-day walk to the border while five others survived. World Food Programme Executive Director Ertharin Cousin visited South Sudan , and said; “Women we met in Nyal who have been affected by the conflict asked us to convey three messages to the world: they need peace, assistance to relieve their suffering, and the chance for their children to return to school,” he said “Ordinary people are bearing the brunt of this conflict, and agencies like ours are facing far too many obstacles in trying to assist them. This must change. Lives are at stake.”


With the rainy season rapidly approaching, the situation is set to deteriorate rapidly. The rainy season usually lasts between April and November and brings many problems to the region, including rapid spread of disease, limited harvesting and contamination of water sources. Flooding will lead to destruction of IDP shelters and homes, and will put barriers on humanitarian access. It has been estimated that up to 60% of the country can be cut off during the wettest months.


Time is running out to implement the preparation measures which would help to mitigate these risks, including upgrading IDP sites and shelters in order to make them flood-proof.


In order to prevent the worst African humanitarian catastrophe since the 1980s, more than $230 million is needed in the next 60 days, the United Nations official coordinating humanitarian aid in South Sudan warned on Thursday April 3rd. However, more than money is needed; food, water, seeds and farming tools are needed to ensure crops are planted before the rainy season takes over. “If we were to miss the planting season, there will be a catastrophic decline in food security… because what will strike that country, and it will hit about seven million people will be more grave than anything that continent has seen since the mid-1980s,” Toby Lanzer said. “So, we are trying to prevent that.  And, if that were to happen, it will cost people a whole lot more.  So, invest now, or pay later.”


Erika Nordblad

By Erika Nordblad

Erika Nordblad is an intern at HART. She studies politics with international relations at the University of Bath. She is interested in women’s rights and international development.

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