Concerns grow over worsening conditions in Western Equatoria, South Sudan
Christian Aid is deeply concerned at the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in Western Equatoria, South Sudan, in which one of its long-term partners, Mundri Relief & Development Association (MRDA) has been attacked.
The agency’s training centre and guesthouse in Mundri County were looted last week with virtually everything removed, including beds, solar panels and records.
Staff members fled into hiding in the bush and although all have now been accounted for, it’s not known when it will be safe enough to reopen the centre.
Brian Badi, Executive Director of MRDA, said: “We don’t know for certain when we will be able to resume our work, but we need to be ready. There are people depending on us.
“Fighting first broke out in May this year and MRDA was the first to appeal for emergency relief but there was no response. To date, no emergency food or non-food items have reached Mundri. The people are suffering now and depending largely on wild roots and fruit to survive.”
UN peace prize winner Bishop Paride Taban led a delegation of church leaders to Mundri on a fact-finding mission at the end of October.
Afterwards, the leaders stressed their concern regarding the humanitarian situation, urging the need for mediation and a peaceful resolution.
Their statement read: “The civil population in Mundri is badly affected by the conflict, and there is need for immediate humanitarian assistance including food, non-food items and essential drugs. Mundri town is now completely deserted. Many have lost their lives. Women, children and the elderly have gone to hide in nearby forests, and hundreds have sought refuge in the internally displaced people camp in Yei.”
Rosie Crowther, Christian Aid Emergency Programme Officer, who is based in the capital, Juba, said this week: “If we manage to raise humanitarian funds to help the people affected by this latest onset of fighting, then as soon as access becomes possible MRDA’s strong roots in the area will mean it is well-placed to respond quickly.
“Access is difficult in some areas of South Sudan so it’s essential to respond to urgent humanitarian needs as soon as there is a break in fighting.”
MRDA has been working in Mundri since 1991, striving to improve livelihoods and access to basic social services such as healthcare and education.
It was the first South Sudanese organisation to introduce teacher training courses during the SPLA war of liberation and today works hard to construct new or improve existing schools so that children in the local communities can get an education. It also plays a part in peace negotiations between ethnic groups; Dinka Atuot of Lakes State and the Jur in Mvolo County of Western Equatoria State.
The present conflict in South Sudan erupted nearly two years ago after a political struggle between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar quickly escalated along ethnic lines and rapidly spread across the country. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, more than 1.6 million have been internally displaced and 600,000 refugees have fled the country to escape the ongoing violence.