Three years ago, the streets of South Sudan’s capital Juba were filled with revelry as residents and international dignitaries celebrated the new nation’s independence from Sudan, thus ending decades of bloody war.
However, high hopes for peace and prosperity were short-lived. In December 2013, fighting between government troops and rebel forces erupted. Within weeks, the conflict escalated, claiming the lives of thousands of people and displacing more than 1.3 million, including 350,000 people who have fled to neighboring countries.
As pockets of conflict continue, at least 4 million people across South Sudan face the threat of famine and are in dire need of food, clean water, shelter and basic health services. Cholera has broken out. Many children are at risk of hunger and disease.
Food for the Hungry (FH) has been working in South Sudan, bringing help and hope to vulnerable children and families through education, food security, agriculture, and water and sanitation (WASH) programs.
“We operate in areas that are already difficult to access, and now with the ongoing conflict and security concerns, our work has become even more complicated,” says FH staff Leena Samuel. “But despite challenges to deliver consistent assistance to people in need in remote locations, we remain committed to provide critical help.”
Most recently, FH has secured from United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) assistance of 6.3 metric tons of food packages and $402,000 in cash. This will benefit nearly 72,000 people in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state.
“This is great news for FH as we serve the people affected by the current crisis in South Sudan,” says Yves Habumugisha, FH/South Sudan Country Director.
Also through private partnerships and other funding sources, FH is seeking out South Sudanese fleeing to the Upper Nile, Jonglei and Lakes States.
Through building relationships with community leaders and families, FH is helping to support communities by:
• Improving food security by providing families with farming tools and quality seeds
• Promoting basic health education and access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene
• Building classrooms for continued education of displaced children
• Providing training to teachers and literacy classes for adults
• Equipping community leaders and churches to promote peace and reconciliation
While the safety and security challenges are many, FH has found favor with the government and all major tribes in South Sudan. As FH remains neutral in responding to community needs, vulnerability to various threats is reduced, allowing FH to operate in project areas with minimal disruptions.
FH is grateful for all funding support and seeks prayers for continued effective response to critical needs, and the safety of staff on the ground as they serve the most vulnerable.
Rez Gopez-Sindac is an Austin, Texas-based writer and editor covering faith, church management and global development.