Wendy Van Amerongen, Communications Officer for South Sudan, shares some of the challenges of working in South Sudan amidst the current conflict and why the team is up to the task:
Getting supplies to where they are needed most in South Sudan can be a challenge. Underdeveloped roads and transportation infrastructure means that heavy rains can block routes for up to eight months a year. And more recently, the outbreak of fighting in many parts of the new nation forces us to find creative solutions so the people we serve receive what they need to survive.
MILLIONS FACE FOOD SHORTAGES
The current conflict between the government and opposition forces has made delivering humanitarian aid to those in need a lot more difficult and the need for doing so that much more apparent.
More than one million people have fled their homes since fighting broke out in December 2013. As a result, main supply routes that normally transport food during the dry season have been shut down because of insecurity, and farmers haven’t been able to plant since fleeing their homes. Coupled with the early rainfall this year, many areas are now experiencing severe food shortages. In fact, Toby Lanzer, the UN’s top official in South Sudan, has warned that the country could face the worse famine since the Ethiopian famine in the mid-1980s.
Our team in Maban has seen first-hand the effects of this food shortage in the refugee camp where we provide basic health care, nutritional support for malnourished children and breastfeeding mothers, and clean water and sanitation for 40,000 people.
Malnutrition rates in the camp have almost tripled in two months. At the local hospitals, the number of cases of broken limbs from people falling from trees while trying to pick leaves to eat has increased as well. The team has even had children gather outside one of our nutrition centres to collect the discarded wrappers from the nutrition supplement used, with hope that there might be some left inside.
The magnitude of need here is rapidly expanding, and at times overwhelming, but our teams are not losing hope. In fact, we’re working as hard as ever to bring much-needed assistance to survivors of this conflict, while holding tightly to the hope of a more peaceful future for this fragile nation.
PUTTING LOVE INTO ACTION
There’s a great quote from an old monk named Father Zossima. He said: “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action….But active love is labour and fortitude…”
Putting love into action is often a messy, time-consuming process. It takes strength and endurance, but is well worth the investment of time, money, and energy. And that’s what I see our teams in South Sudan doing everyday – pouring out love to the people we serve through their hard work.