31 January 2014

South Sudan: The crisis intensifies

The situation in South Sudan has deteriorated, with the SOS Children’s Village in Malakal feeling the full effects of the instability that has blighted the region for months. Hundreds of people in the SOS Children’s Village remain safe, but violence and malnutrition surround them.

Although a ceasefire agreement was signed on 23 January, it is too early to celebrate peace in South Sudan. Due to Malakal’s strategic position in one of South Sudan’s main oil states, the region has suffered from continued fighting and sporadic killings.


Young boy at the Malakal SOS Children´s Village clings to his mother. Photo credit: © Conor Ashleigh

The threat of violence has hindered transportation of vital supplies from the capital city of Juba to the SOS Children’s Village in Malakal. Transportation by road is still impossible as the rainy season cuts off key routes. The only transport available is by unreliable boats and barges. All banks in the region have been looted and forced to close.
 
In Malakal, 30 SOS Children’s Villages co-workers, 100 children and 40 young people have been witnessing the chaos this conflict has inflicted on the region. In addition, hundreds of other people from the area have also been seeking shelter at the SOS Children’s Village.
 
Some parts of South Sudan are suffering from a measles outbreak, adding even greater danger to almost 600,000 people displaced by the conflict. With disease a very real threat, hygiene and adequate medical supplies remain more important than ever.
 
Ethnic tensions are growing, with some co-workers relocated to Juba for their own safety. They are now working with the UN and aid agencies to get important supplies to Malakal. The mobile telephone network has been periodically shut down by fighting, making communication deeply challenging.
 
To ensure that all those at SOS Children’s Villages Malakal remain safe, the organisation has prioritised the following emerging needs:
 

  • Food and other supplies: With the village running low on supplies, there is an urgent need for nutritional supplements, clothing, medicine and hygiene equipment. The water supply is also at risk, with water storage facilities needed immediately. SOS Children’s Villages is exploring every avenue to get supplies to Malakal as soon as possible.
  • Child protection: As in any crisis, children must be protected from overcrowding, family separation, disruption of education and other risks. SOS Children’s Villages is working closely with the UN and other agencies to ensure child protection measures remain in place and that the village remains secure.
  • Health and sanitation: Due to insecurity, medical professionals cannot travel to Malakal. All efforts are being undertaken to provide medical assistance and supplies to the SOS Children’s Village as soon as possible.
 
To meet these urgent needs, SOS Children’s Villages is continuing to assess the situation and coordinate support to the region. The crisis in South Sudan remains extremely dangerous, and the next few days and weeks will prove crucial in ensuring the safety and security of communities in the region.