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Food and health crisis worsens for people in capital of South Sudan

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance responds with $50,000 in relief funds

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

A girl fills a container with muddy water in the Ajuong Thok Refugee Camp in South Sudan. (Photo by Paul Jeffrey/ACT)

A girl fills a container with muddy water in the Ajuong Thok Refugee Camp in South Sudan. The camp, in northern Unity State, hosts thousands of refugees from the Nuba Mountains, located across the nearby border with Sudan. The ACT Alliance provides a variety of services in the camp. (Photo by Paul Jeffrey/ACT)

LOUISVILLE – Deteriorating conditions in the South Sudanese capital city of Juba have left thousands of people in desperate need of food, shelter and health services. Fighting broke out between rival factions on July 8 and while a ceasefire is currently in place, the humanitarian needs have escalated.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, in conjunction with Presbyterian World Mission and its ecumenical partners, is working to provide aid. PDA has approved a $50,000 grant to mission partner Presbyterian Relief and Development Agency (PRDA).

“There is now an urgency to rescue people who are starving in Juba. There is no food in the town,” said the Rt. Rev. Peter Gai, moderator of the Presbyterian Church in South Sudan. “The people are suffering and are traumatized. When they don’t have food it becomes worse.”

The grant is expected to benefit as many as 2,000 internally displaced persons and church leadership says more will be needed.

“South Sudan’s food crisis is the worst in the world according to the U.N. Security Council and has called for urgent action,” said the Rev. Debbie Braaksma, Africa area coordinator for World Mission. “The council says as many as 50,000 children may die of hunger in the conflict-torn country unless international help is increased.”

The grant funding will address the most immediate needs with a focus on food security, water, shelter and basic medical care. PDA says special attention will be given to women and children impacted by the armed conflict in Juba.

“PDA will work with our ecumenical partners to provide more assistance because the needs in Juba are enormous,” said Luke Asikoye, PDA associate for international response. “It seems we take two steps forward and then four steps backward in South Sudan because the situation there is very complex. It is a human-caused disaster and it requires both a political solution and peacemaking within communities.”

Adding to the food shortage is the fear of water-born diseases such as malaria.

“The people there are facing tremendous problems. They have to get out of the country in order to save their lives or stay and die,” said Asikoye. “They are fighting disease, sanitation issues, lack of food and a need for shelter. Even in the camps, they face security threats from soldiers who are suppose to protect them.”

Since the conflict and violence erupted in South Sudan in 2013, more than 2 million people have fled their homes according to the United Nations. An estimated 630,000 refugees from neighboring countries are residing in the country, adding to the need for services.

The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations continues to work with our colleagues to bring the voices of our partners in South Sudan to the United Nations Security Council,” said Ryan Smith, Presbyterian representative at the United Nations. “We work collectively with ecumenical and secular organizations promoting a just and lasting peace.”

“The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness continues to work with our ecumenical colleagues and the larger NGO community to urge the U.S. government to take actions to deescalate the situation in South Sudan and ensure the security of civilians and the delivery of humanitarian aid,” said Catherine Gordon, associate for international issues in the Office of Public Witness. “Given the recent gender-based violence around U.N. camps and increased violence across the country, the need for the protection of civilians and safe corridors for the delivery of humanitarian assistance has never been greater.”

“Given the enormous needs, we will need to do more,” said Asikoye. “If this situation is going to continue, we will have to provide basic needs and supplies until conditions improve.”

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For more information, visit the PDA website. To support disaster response in South Sudan, give to DR000042.


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