The church in South Sudan is bringing emergency aid to thousands of displaced people despite many challenges.
But the Sudan Relief and Development Agency (SUDRA), the church's department leading the response, may be forced to scale back its help for displaced people because of a lack of funds.
So far, despite massive media coverage of the violent crisis in South Sudan, which broke out in December and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes, the Episcopal Church of Sudan and South Sudan (ECSSS) has only received pledges for just over half its initial target of £600,000.
Alongside this news, the numbers of people the church is being asked to help is rising fast.
In Nimule, on the border with Uganda, it was planned to feed 9,000 people for three weeks. Now SUDRA, the church's department leading the response, is faced with a request to feed 35,000 people. This is in the face of resistance by the local community who fear the permanent resettlement of the displaced people.
Now SUDRA has negotiated with the local government to provide dry food to 28,000 people for one week only.
Since the church's emergency appeal was launched in January, the numbers of displaced people are only growing.
As reports came in from parishes about increasing movement of populations and growing unmet humanitarian needs, the ECSSS team added 15,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Renk area to their target group.
A member of the ECSSS emergency committee, working with Mennonite Central Committee is expected to travel to Renk next week for the local procurement and delivery of dry food items.
Sporadic rain has begun in South Sudan, and the life of the IDPs, particularly those living under trees in Awerial, is further challenged.
In all responses, SUDRA is training volunteers by SUDRA in registering IDPs and food distribution. Some of the IDPs themselves are also trained and so involved in the registration and distribution of relief items.
Despite the scaling back, significant aid is getting to people in need. A SUDRA report in March said that £45,000 had been spent in the provision of wet food to around 3,000 children in need in Awerial, and a further £275,000 would be used by the end of the month in the procurement and delivery of food for Awerial, Nimule, Renk and Juba.
Meanwhile SUDRA, with just one full time member of staff (being helped by additional personnel from ECSSS dioceses) is continuing to prepare its longer term response, involving counselling and trauma healing. This will be based on revised financial expectations following the response to the Phase One appeal.
Working with other church departments, SUDRA plans:
- rehabilitation – including business training for income generation in collaboration with the Mothers' Union, education and health programmes
- trauma healing and counselling – with the church's Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission - advocacy – also with the JPRC, including training-of-trainers for bishops and leading church members to further train parish priests, Mothers' Union workers and other staff to advocate for the voiceless. One example of this activity is already being implemented in Nimule, where there is tension between the host community and the newly arrived IDPs. Given historic border tensions, the host community (mainly Catholics) is wary of the church to provide food distribution as it may encourage IDPs (mainly Episcopalians) to permanently settle in the area. ECSSS and SUDRA have been working ecumenically with both host and IDP communities on peaceful coexistence.
Snapshot of a crisis
– Rev Joseph Loabe (Acting Manager of SUDRA)
In early March, SUDRA and NGO partners visited the Nimule area to assess the situation and determine the need. Discussions with religious leaders, women’s groups, local chiefs, displaced persons and government authorities were held over a three-day period. The focus of the visit was the Milijo transit camp, near the Uganda border, where 9,000 individuals had registered, mainly from Bor and Awerial.
In Milijo camp, Medicins Sans Frontieres has been facilitating the provision of treated river water on to the camp residents on a near daily basis.
Sanitation facilities are not available in the camps, although UNHCR has constructed public latrines in Nimule town (about 30km away) where other IDPs have found shelter. Merlin and Care are providing medical care through mobile clinics. However, food remains a shortage – camp residents spoke of the hospitality offered by their host communities in sharing food. The host community expressed their own concerns over the limited availability of food for their own families with the influx of displaced persons.
UPDATE 4 APRIL Nimule, being on the border with Uganda, has never had violence, there is resentment from the host community because of the increasing number of displaced populations. With ECSSS advocacy, the local government authorities have agreed to provide land in Miljok to settle nearly 35,000 persons. The displaced continue to arrive from the conflict areas. ECSSS was the first agency to visit the new IDP settlement.
CMS has been able to give a small grant of £3,000 towards the fund. A further £2,000 has now been donated by CMS supporters. As you have read, much more is needed. Please donate to help >