According to new UN figures, six million people – or more than half of the total population – are in need of humanitarian aid in South Sudan, the world’s newest independent country. Unrest returned to the country as it celebrated five years of independence at the beginning of July, almost a year since the conclusion of a tentative ceasefire that put a hold on years of bloody civil war. Since then, persistent outbreaks of violence have kept South Sudan and the international community on edge.
At present, 1.6 million South Sudanese people have been internally-displaced – forced to live like refugees in their own country. Many of them have sought refuge from the violence that plagues the country in rapidly-growing slums on the edge of the capital city Juba and the second city Wau, where getting access to clean drinking water and healthy nutrition are major problems. Since mid-July, Malteser International has been working to provide around 25,000 people in the slums around Juba with better access to food and clean water.
Almost 100,000 people have fled to the city of Juba from the nearby countryside because they feel safer in the city. Malteser International has implemented a voucher system that allows them to access a secure supply of food and water. However, many experts fear that the ongoing instability in South Sudan could have severe long-term consequences for the food supply. “People feel increasingly unsafe from attacks in the countryside, and more and more of them are fleeing to the cities. Of course if there is nobody left on the land then the crops cannot be harvested. It is unlikely that this problem will go away in the foreseeable future, and that could mean that the next harvest is lost,” said Daniela Krings, responsible for Malteser International’s work in South Sudan and Uganda.
In addition to the millions internally-displaced in South Sudan, around 700,000 people have fled the country altogether to seek safety abroad. Around 80,000 of these are currently living as refugees in Uganda. “A large number of South Sudanese people have fled to Uganda because of the friendly reception they have received from the government there. There is a lively culture of friendly hospitality in Uganda,” said Krings. Since September 2015, Malteser International has been helping to ensure that around 20,000 of these refugees have access to a supply of clean drinking water, as well as helping them to grow their own food.
The DR Congo is also host to an increasing number of South Sudanese refugees. Malteser International has been providing support for local health centers in the country, which have to bear the burden of providing the refugees with medical care. “We are preparing to expand our support for South Sudanese refugees across the region; above all, because the situation in South Sudan itself shows no signs of improvement,” said Roland Hansen, head of Malteser International’s Africa department.
Read more about our work with refugees and displaced people.