South Sudan was born in 2011 on the heels of decades of brutal civil war in Sudan. While the Darfur genocide raged in western Sudan, the people of South Sudan vied for independence and achieved it in a referendum in 2011.
Although world leaders were optimistic that independence might finally offer the South Sudanese a much-needed reprieve from decades of war, the country has continued to be divided by conflict. Ongoing fighting between government and opposition forces over power has prevented many farmers from planting or harvesting crops, while others have been forced to flee their lands—leading to widespread food shortages. In addition, multiple years of drought have destroyed crops in some parts of East Africa—and the people of South Sudan are among those of who have endured the heaviest hardships.
As a result, six million South Sudanese—more than half the country—are experiencing a hunger crisis. Children face acute malnutrition, livestock are rapidly dying, and soaring food prices have caused families to go without meals and sell their belongings.
As the conflict rages, warring factions have blocked the delivery of vital food supplies to support the South Sudanese people. Between January 2016 and March 2017, humanitarian groups recorded at least 54 attacks against aid workers in South Sudan—making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world for aid workers. And earlier in 2017, reports revealed that securing an aid worker visa now costs $10,000, suggesting that the government is profiting from what has become one of the worst humanitarian crises of our times.
This complex crisis has led to massive migration—on average, 4,700 South Sudanese cross into neighboring Uganda every day. In total, an estimated 1.33 million refugees, and counting, are now putting profound strain on the already fragile country, which has suffered its own drought and food shortages. Tensions and conflict are flaring among ethnic groups and between refugees and residents who are vying for the same scarce resources.
In keeping with our longstanding commitment to respond to disasters and support communities as they recover, we launched our East Africa Crisis Fund to provide immediate and long-term support to communities that have been hit hardest by drought, malnutrition and violent conflict. In South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya, AJWS is supporting local organizations that will help communities:
- Access food and prevent malnutrition
- Access clean water
- Provide psychosocial support for displaced people and refugees
- Learn skills and trades that will generate income
- Establish peacebuilding and coexistence projects to mitigate unrest in the region