A chaotic and volatile situation remains in large areas of South Sudan, with half a million people displaced. The church has put together an emergency plan to do its part and needs your help to support it.
Long-term peace and reconciliation depends on effective aid and relief now, says the Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and South Sudan, the Most Rev Dr Daniel Deng Bul Yak.
“We must help feed people today, so they and their children survive: then they will want to listen when we come to talk about reconciliation," he says in a report launching the first phase of the Church's response to the humanitarian crisis.
In the first four to six weeks, the Church is committed to providing food and medical support for the thousands seeking its care and as yet unreached by other agencies, says the Rev Joseph Loabe, Acting Manager of SUDRA, the church relief and development arm.
A second phase will then be developed to respond to the evolving context over the course of the following 12 months.
The church currently estimates it can reach 44,000 displaced people in camps in South Sudan with emergency food aid, and will provide drugs and medical care to over 20,000 children affected with diarrhoea, measles, malaria and other diseases.
Different parts of the church nationally and internationally are joining forces to help. The Archbishop has called together all the church's heads of department to form an emergency response committee to work with SUDRA.
Internationally the Anglican Alliance has been coordinating conversation with partners such as CMS, so there is a united response to support the church's plans.
In one camp visited by a team from the Episcopal Church of Sudan and South Suda (ECSSS) and Anglican Alliance, thousands had fled the fighting in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state. They had originally sought shelter in the church compound and the priest had negotiated with the local community leaders to allow the people to settle on the river bank, under mango trees. At night some have been able to shelter in huts abandoned as local Juba residents also flee the conflict. The priest has continued to provide pastoral care to the IDPs and has mobilised his lay leaders to visit the settlement.
In over three weeks they have receive no official food aid. What food they have secured has been donated by members of the local church and community, some of whom are related to the IDPs – but now the local communities already meagre resources are exhausted.
"During the visit, one mother was trying to breastfeed her infant twins and was clearly distressed by her own dwindling milk supplies, given her own hunger," says the Rev Loabe. "Her own older children and two orphans she has taken under her protection lay listlessly on the mat next to her. Her husband returned empty handed from a foraging trip into the centre of the city. He said that when they fled from Bor they had no chance to bring anything: 'We just picked up our children and ran.'"
With initial funds received from partners, ECSSS has already started feeding this group. They are ready and eager to do more, making the most of their widespread grassroots network to reach those missed by other agencies.