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South Sudan crisis: my view from the ground

World Vision
22 February 2014 by Erin Joyce
South Sudan crisis: my view from the ground

Girls collect water at a site for displaced people in Malakal, South Sudan. An outbreak of fighting in the world's newest nation has left tens of thousands fleeing their homes. Photo by Michael Arunga, World Vision.

It’s a Saturday afternoon here in Juba and it is baking hot outside, at least 45 degrees. A short walk back from a morning meeting and I am bathed in sweat. Fortunately, I have my air-conditioned hotel room to retreat to.

It feels unfair. My room is simple, nothing fancy, but it is clean with running water and a comfortable bed. It is luxury compared to how most South Sudanese people live. Just driving around Juba, you can see family groups clustered around makeshift homes of mud, thatch and NGO-distributed tarpaulins. Women cook out in the open, using their brightly coloured ‘kangas’ to swat away flies and mosquitoes.

At least for now, these people are safe. It’s a different story for those in the country’s north-eastern most state of Upper Nile, where battles are currently raging between government and opposition forces. World Vision staffers are among those confined to the United Nations compound in Malakal, unable to leave due to the insecurity beyond its walls. We are worried about them as each day we hear stories of shootings, moving front lines, the use of heavy artillery and violence against women. We hear of abductions based on people’s ethnicity and more and more children being left unaccompanied, separated from their families while fleeing.

Each day the humanitarian community gets ready to fly supplies up to support the effort, however, since early last week, nothing and no one is getting in or out.

However staff members here are not sitting idly. They are busy collecting information and prepositioning items for the moment when they can resume operations again. The current suffering of the local people is not their only motivation for wanting to get things moving. In approximately six weeks, rainy season begins in South Sudan, turning much of the country into muddy swamplands, hindering humanitarian access.

To complicate things further, those sites for displaced people will also be inundated. On top of that, the conflict has interrupted agricultural production in this country. There are warnings of an impending food crisis which could affect millions over the coming months. Tragically, this scenario is echoed across the country.

So here I am, sitting in my hotel room in Juba, hundreds of kilometres from the fighting, doing what I can. I am writing proposals to secure more funding from government donors. I am working with staff of other agencies to coordinate how we can work together to ensure measures are in place to protect children as much as possible from the risks that make them vulnerable. I am working with partners to prepare trainings for staff on how best to respond to people showing signs of distress. But it doesn’t seem like enough. The humanitarian need is vast, and it’s only going to grow.

Please, if you have the resources donate to World Vision’s South Sudan Crisis Appeal and help our team here in country do as much as we can. We need your support, because everywhere we look, there is ever growing need.

Erin Joyce Erin Joyce

Erin Joyce works in humanitarian and emergency affairs at World Vision.

 

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