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  • Written by World and Media

Concern Worldwide makes urgent appeal for staff as 'imminent' famine threatens South Sudan

Refugees at Yida refugee camp in South Sudan’s Unity State queue for hours for food and soap. Camps could be overwhelmed if the conflict and food crisis worsen. Photo: Hannah McNeish/IRIN.Concern Worldwide, Ireland’s largest international humanitarian organisation, has put out an urgent appeal for experienced specialists to help in its response to the rapidly deteriorating food situation in South Sudan.

Back in early December, the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) warned that the country faced a potential food crisis this year. Less than two weeks later, several conflict broke out along ethnic lines in the newly independent country between rival groups than in the ruling party. Largely as a result, the situation has deteriorated to the point that FEWS NET, the UN and many others are warning of famine that may be imminent.

The civil war meant that farmers could not plant earlier this year and now they face severe food shortages, say Concern. Food prices are soaring making it impossible for people to meet their daily needs. It is now estimated that 3.8 million people are in need of assistance.

“It is a measure of the seriousness of the very real and imminent threat of famine in the world’s newest country that we are putting out this call for staff,” said Concern’s Regional Director for South Sudan, Carol Morgan. “These are paid positions and will assist us in our existing humanitarian response in the country, which we are already scaling up significantly.”

In 2011, the humanitarian network ALNAP published a major report , which analysed lessons learnt from droughts, many of which could have been applied in this case. One of the major recommendations was timely and appropriate intervention. Concern has been responding to this crisis since January. The international response has been more mixed. A major UN appeal was launched in May but is currently only 45.5% funded even though conditions have subsequently worsened.

  • Written by World and Media

Obama's Africa legacy may be judged by what happens in South Sudan

President Obama at a Ministerial Meeting on Sudan on September 24, 2010. Photo: U.S. State Department.The Economist's Matthew Bishop described this as 'an incredibly important week' for Africa. The biggest ever summit between the US president and African leaders concluded on Wednesday (August 6, 2014) in Washington DC. During the summit, President Barack Obama announced $33 billion in new investment and trade with Africa.

President George W Bush significantly grew aid to Africa relative to his predecessors, though sometimes controversially, particularly in relation to AIDS prevention. The Obama administration has continued to provide significant funds to tackle global health issues, including new health funding announced Monday (August 4).

However, there have been distinctive policies under the current administration. For example, there appears to have been a significant shift towards focusing on trade and direct investment with Africa, mirroring the shifts that have occurred in government policy in several other countries, such as Ireland and the UK. This week's US-Africa summit is important as a symbolic statement as it is practically. It recognises the continent's emerging economic power and potential over the last 15 years. The summit may be seen as an important part of the Obama administration's Africa legacy, as will its handling of the Arab Spring.

The US has also been heavily involved in the process which led to independence for South Sudan.

  • Written by Niamh Griffin

South Sudan in crisis

Sarah John walked hundreds of miles with her four children to reach the MSF camps on the South Sudanese border with Kenya. Photo: Wairimu Gitau, MSF.Sarah John walked hundreds of miles with her four children (pictured) to reach the Medicins Sans Frontier camps on the South Sudanese border with Kenya. Aged between two and seven, the children are among almost one million refugees fleeing conflict in the world’s newest nation.

Almost three years ago the world looked on as South Sudan celebrated independence, and looked to the future. But in December agreement between the main ethnic groups came to a violent end.

An uneasy alliance between the President and Vice-President broke in July when the VP was dismissed. Violence broke out in mid-December, and reports of armed soldiers on the streets signaled an end to peace. A ceasefire declared on January 23rd has not lessened the violence.

UNHCR estimated this month there are “over 739,000 people … internally displaced and a further 196,921 sheltering in neighbouring countries” because of the escalating conflict.

A senior MSF medic told an audience in Dublin earlier this month that the situation can now be described as a crisis.

Retired British surgeon Professor Paul McMaster worked in South Sudan for a month from Christmas, joining over 3,000 local and international staff on the ground.

‘It was just after midnight when they called me to see a young girl of about 12 who had collapsed. Sitting on the floor next to her, was her seven or eight year old brother.

‘She had walked three or four days from the North, without food or water, her father had stayed behind and they had been separated from their mother. Her only carer was her brother. It was Christmas morning,’ he said.

  • Written by Niamh Griffin

Thousands at risk in South Sudan camp

An MSF doctor attends a patient at Jamam camp, South Sudan. Photograph: Shannon Jensen/MSF.A woman wearing a turquoise-blue nightdress stares out of a photograph, her eyes so large in her thin face they are almost all you see. In another image a tall man sways unsteadily as a doctor inserts a drip into his arm. And in a third a child looks away from the camera pointing at the coloured strap on his arm, the strap telling those who know that this child may not live.

The borders of the fledgling state of South Sudan have been inundated with refugees fleeing increasing conflict in Sudan head of office at Medecins Sans Frontières Ireland, Jane-Ann McKenna said at an event in Dublin last night, at which those photographs were displayed.

Recently returned from the area, she said camps have been set-up on flood-plains as people simply stopped walking and could not go further without help.

“These camps have sprung up on inhospitable land, with no infrastructure or services. There are pools of stagnant water everywhere, while fresh water and food are in scant supply,” she said, adding people sleep in up to one foot of water when their tents are flooded.

As more help arrives, it has been possible to move thousands of people to other camps away from the flooding. But 35,000 still remain at Jamam camp with an estimated 110,000 refugees in this state known as Blue Nile.

Ms McKenna said the only option available is to place people on trucks up to 100 at a time and drive on mud-caked roads in 40 degree heat.

Appealing for aid from Ireland, she said: “We need to ensure we have the capacity to address preventable diseases and to offer a real chance of survival once they arrive at the camp.”

  • Written by IRIN aw/cb

Sudan-Chad: The strains of long-term displacement

'In Darfur, both men and women used to work, but virtually no one has a job here'. Photo: Ann Weru/IRIN.[GOZ-BEIDA] Djabal refugee camp in eastern Chad, where some residents have stayed for nearly a decade after fleeing violence in neighbouring Sudan, illustrates some of the family and social problems engendered by displacement and dependency.

“Before, in Darfur [Sudan], both men and women used to work, but virtually no one has a job here,” Achtar Abubakr Ibrahim, a women’s refugee leader in Djabal, told IRIN. “The men found themselves jobless, the women became dependent on the jobless men and this created frustration and anger, so the men started battering the women.”

At Djabal camp, which has about 18,000 refugees, groups of men sit in the shade talking for hours on end, while the women do casual jobs, if possible, in addition to their household chores of taking care of the children, and fetching water and firewood.

“The women decided to work. They went to town to do brick-making for their children [‘s sake], but the men want to misuse [the earnings], leading to violence,” said Achtar.

“The women have hustled and found something, the men are idle and it affects their self-esteem. Their egos are battered,” an aid official, who preferred anonymity, told IRIN.

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