The last months of 2020 in South Sudan were characterized by the pandemic, floods and famine.
The country, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, is among the most critical countries in the world in terms of humanitarian needs of the local population: 8.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, half of whom are minors, 5.8 million are food insecure and 1.4 million are minors living in a state of acute malnutrition. “The floods in 2020 were the worst in the last 60 years“, says Stefano Antichi, Head of Mission in South Sudan, “the coming months do not suggest any improvement and this makes it difficult for humanitarian workers to access many areas in extreme difficulty”.
Conflict and famine in South Sudan
Two years after the signing of the peace agreements between the warring factions, the unstable situation and the limited investment in basic services are further exacerbating living conditions of the people. Internal displacement is continuous, with people looking for safe places to stay as a consequence of the intensified intra-communal conflict, violence, severe flooding and the impact COVID-19 had on the almost non-existent health system. About 1.6 million people are internally displaced and another 2.2 million are refugees in the region. In the Jonglei area in the East of the country, famine and hunger are increasing. People have no food and there is a lack of all kinds of basic necessities.
INTERSOS intervention in Pibor
“This year we have reopened our mission in the locality of Pibor, one of the most complex areas in the whole country, at risk of high insecurity“, says Stefano Antichi “through projects financed by UNHCR and UNICEF, we are launching new activities to protect and monitor the humanitarian conditions of the local population“.
Access to essential services, including health care, education, water and sanitation, as well as protection and legal services, was already limited and infrastructures were damaged or destroyed in 2020. As in any humanitarian emergency, the main victims of conflict and its consequences are children, who are often severely malnourished from the first months of life. Moreover, children of young mothers often have a history characterized by physical and psychological violence. Stefano Antichi also tells us about the next projects INTERSOS will bring forward in the field: “For us, 2021 will be the year of “food security“, with great attention also paid to gender-based violence, especially in the Jonglei area, where we will distribute food and help families who are struggling economically”.
Humanitarian aid in South Sudan
INTERSOS is operational in South Sudan since 2006. Humanitarian intervention has never ceased even during the difficult transition to political independence in the country. INTERSOS left Pibor area for security reasons in 2019, but is now returning in this crucial territory, where continuous attacks between rival communities are being registered. The aim of the mission is to reach around 6,000 people including women, men and children in need, both in the city and in the surrounding rural areas. “In response to the heavy floods of the past months and to those that will come with the new season, we will distribute kits of essential goods in the most affected areas such as Ayod, in the federal state of Fangak. There are about 7,740 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in these areas: emergency kits will be distributed to about 4,290 people, 54% of the locally displaced population.