Crisis reaches ‘now or never moment’ says agency as it launches public appeal
International agency Oxfam called today for a massive and rapid global surge in the aid effort to help millions of people at acute risk of hunger and disease in South Sudan saying that the crisis has reached a ‘now or never moment’ to avoid catastrophic levels of hunger and suffering.
Oxfam called on governments to respond generously and without delay to the UN appeal at a conference to pledge money in Oslo next Tuesday. The $1.27 billion (£750 million) UN appeal is currently only 40 per cent funded – a shortfall of more than $700 million (£415m). Oxfam called for other governments to follow the UK’s lead and provide their fair share of funding. The international agency also launched its own appeal to the British public to help fund its $25m (£15m) work to deliver aid to people in dire need in the crisis hit country.
Mark Goldring, Oxfam Chief Executive, said: “The South Sudan crisis is at a tipping point. We either act now or millions will pay the price. We face a mammoth task of getting massive levels of aid to people at the worst time of the year when rains make many areas hard to reach and turn roads into rivers of mud.
“People need to plant their crops, to rebuild their homes and lives, children need to go back to school, health facilities to be reopened, and the time for it to happen is now. We need a massive and rapid global surge in aid to prevent catastrophic levels of hunger. We cannot afford to wait, we cannot afford to fail.”
Since the conflict broke out last December there has been an alarming increase in the numbers of people facing hunger and children suffering from malnutrition. More than a third of South Sudan’s people - 3.7 million - are facing emergency and crisis levels of hunger and are in need of immediate assistance. In the worst hit area, Unity State, more than three quarters of the population is at emergency and crisis levels of hunger. The number of people going hungry is projected to increase sharply in the coming months. Across the crisis more than 200,000 children are in need of treatment for severe acute malnutrition.
The rainy season has begun and one of the most pressing tasks of the aid effort is to get seeds and tools to people so that they can start planting now. If the aid effort cannot get enough seeds and tools to people in time then the chances of a decent harvest in months to come will be lost, which will have a devastating effect on people’s ability to feed their families.
With the onset of the rainy season comes the higher risk of communicable diseases especially in overcrowded camps where people have sought shelter and safety. Getting safe clean water to people and providing decent sanitation and ways for people to maintain personal hygiene is a high priority to reduce the risk of disease such as cholera.
More than a million people have been forced to flee their homes, many ending up living in squalid camps inside the country and 300,000 escaping to neighbouring countries. They will be anxious to return but fearful of their safety. People will not only need a safe and secure environment to be able to return to their homes but will also need aid to help rebuild their lives.
The political violence which triggered the crisis last December quickly turned into inter-ethnic bloodletting. In the violence health posts and hospitals were looted and destroyed and hundreds of health workers fled for their safety and have yet to return. An estimated 30 health facilities are still not functioning leaving communities without health services at this crucial time.
Since December, more than 300,000 refugees have fled to Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan and Kenya. In the first weeks of May alone, some 20,000 new refugees fled into Ethiopia. Many are anxious to return but remain fearful for their safety as long as the conflict rages.
A cease fire agreed between President Salva Kiir and the former Vice President Riek Machar on 9 May has given hope for an end to fighting. High level diplomatic efforts are needed to help ensure the cease fire holds and negotiations towards a peaceful solution stay on track.
Oxfam has so far helped over 180,000 people in South Sudan and 63,000 in Uganda, providing food, working to prevent outbreaks of communicable diseases by providing, access to clean water and sanitation, and providing household items such as mosquito nets, blankets, cook stoves and charcoal for cooking. Oxfam also supports peace building initiatives in communities where it is working, both in South Sudan and Uganda. It plans to expand its work to help many more but needs to find the funds to do so. It is calling on the British public to donate generously to its emergency appeal.