The world’s newest nation, South Sudan, has just celebrated two years of independence, since it was formed on the 9 July 2011. However, with ongoing conflict in a number of regions and widespread poverty, the country faces huge humanitarian problems.
Almost two million South Sudanese have returned home since the signing of the peace deal with Sudan in 2005, but many families have struggled to make a living in their homeland, often finding their former land occupied. In addition, without valid identity papers, some families have been unable to access health and education services. More generally, the high number of returnees has put great pressure on food stocks and state services.
Problems in the country have been exacerbated by internal clashes in certain areas, such as the Jonglei state and ongoing border conflict in regions such as Abyei, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile. This instability, along with national disagreements over oil payments with Sudan, has affected food prices and agencies report a significant deterioration in the country’s food situation. The UN’s World Food Programme estimates that more than 4 million people will be food insecure in 2013, with hundreds of thousands of young children at risk from malnutrition.
According to a recent IRIN article, aid agencies say they need 485 million dollars for the remainder of 2013 to help people in South Sudan “survive and to rebuild their lives”. And with the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people who have fled fighting, the task is proving ever harder.
In certain areas, aid agencies are having difficulties gaining access to refugee populations and conditions in some camps are reportedly abysmal, with overcrowding and outbreaks of disease. Flooding and the rainy season are hampering efforts to deliver supplies and insecurity also makes reaching populations difficult. Recently, the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported that around 20,000 people had been cut off from aid in the Northern Bahr el Ghazal State.
Oil revenues are urgently needed by the new government to pay for public services and support populations in need of assistance. In a glimmer of hope that the overall situation might improve, the first shipment of oil in 18 months left South Sudan in June. Many will be praying that the oil continues to flow, so the nation can turn its attention to addressing the many other challenges.