The world's youngest nation is in urgent need of help: our help. South Sudan, which less than three years ago was celebrating its independence, entered into a civil war in mid December and there looks to be no end in sight.
More than 1,000,000 people have been forced from their villages by violence, hunger, and thirst. Another 250,000 have sought refuge in neighboring countries,
including Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya, where they wait. Many have traveled days without food or clean water.
Toby Lanzer, UN official coordinating humanitarian aid in the country, reports “South Sudan needs international aid in the next 60 days [during the pre-rainy season window] or it will face the worst starvation in Africa since the 1980’s, when hundreds of thousands of people died in famine.”
Elizabeth Harrison,who works in the region, agrees. She, along with her husband and two young daughters, decided to evacuate their family from the area in late December. She says, “The political crisis escalated far faster than anyone imagined it would. Granted, no one has ever claimed this is the most stable part of the world, but a full blown rebel movement in force across half the country practically overnight? I did not see that one coming.” She confirms the struggle of the South Sudanese. “The UN did another food distributionthat was close to half of what the refugees normally get, just lentils and oil. There is no more food to give, and people are hungry.”
A press release by the UN’s World Food Programme states “The continued conflict, combined with the onset of the rainy season has made it difficult to reach many people in need. The relief effort has been further hampered by a severe lack of funds”.
There is simply not enough food to go around. The World Food Programme (WFP) and United Nations Refugee agency (UNHCR) warn that millions of lives will be in danger during the coming months unless urgent action is taken to support South Sudanese civilians who are struggling to survive.
In spite of the conflict, Elizabeth says, “There is hope. There is a lot of fear still too. But there is real hope. For now though, in this sea of unknowns, we wait patiently. More patiently on some days than others, but nonetheless we wait. And pray.” Sudanese refugees continue to tithe what little rations they are given from the UN for community members who need the extra food. What a powerful picture of faith and of joy in giving. We join the Harrisons in praying for God’s mighty intervention in this dire situation.
Healing Hands International is initially purchasing regionally available food, which will be delivered by our contacts in Uganda and Ethiopia. If you would like to be involved with this project or have questions, please contact Joseph Smith at 615-832-2000. Any checks going toward this effort may be made to Healing Hands International with “South Sudan Food Crises” written in the memo line.
In light of the violence and conflict, Healing Hands International decided in December 2013 to move our water well drilling rig from South Sudan to Uganda.