Fighting Erupts in Unity State

by Gerry Lynch last modified 13 May, 2015 05:11 PM

Local church and Christian Aid aiding displaced people and working for long-term peace.

Fighting Erupts in Unity State

Photo Credit: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Fierce outbreaks of fighting in South Sudan’s Unity State have left 300,000 people in need of urgent assistance and forced up to 100,000 people from their homes in the last ten days, adding to the 2 million people in the country already displaced.

Civilians living in and around Guit, Ngop, Nhialdu, Mayendit and Koch are fleeing in an attempt to avoid the fighting.

Canon Ian Woodward, Chair of the Salisbury-Sudan Link, said, “This is another terribly sad indication of the unwillingness of some communities in this area to seek peace, which is so desperately needed. We are working with the Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission in the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan to seek ways to bring peace to the country.”

UN Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, said, “Ongoing hostilities in Unity state have now obliged all non-governmental organisations and UN agencies to evacuate staff from Leer and other locations. The humanitarian response south of Bentiu in Unity state has, as such, come to a stop.”

Through the efforts of a local partner organisation, however, Christian Aid is supporting projects in the southern part of Unity state to respond to the immediate needs of vulnerable communities.

Rosie Crowther, Christian Aid Emergency Programme Officer said, “International agencies have been forced to evacuate staff and scale back significantly, and local organisations are struggling to remain on the ground. If the fighting reaches the town of Leer even more lives will be lost and people will once again be forced to flee into the bush”

Christian Aid is extremely concerned about the impact of the fighting on civilians, and strongly urges all armed actors to refrain from targeting civilians or humanitarian facilities.

“Citizens are being caught up in the fighting”, said Rosie, “May is the peak of the planting season in South Sudan, when people need to be able to move freely and safely to tend to their crops. This new outbreak of fighting is preventing people from growing the crops they so desperately need and will only exacerbate the ongoing food security situation.

“We are working in some of the worst affected areas to meet immediate food needs, provide safe drinking water, and promote safe hygiene and sanitation practices to help prevent the spread of disease.

“In Koch we have been repairing boreholes so that communities can access safe drinking water. We are training pump mechanics and water committees to ensure that the boreholes are maintained in the longer term, as well as facilitating hygiene awareness campaigns in schools”.

Christian Aid is urging the international community to act fast to provide the necessary funding to supply food and non-food items to the affected communities and put pressure on both parties to find a permanent solution to the conflict.

The present conflict in South Sudan erupted 17 months ago after a political struggle between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar quickly escalated along ethnic lines and rapidly spread across the country.  Tens of thousands of people have been killed, and it is anticipated that 6.4 million will need humanitarian aid this year. 

Please continue to keep South Sudan in your prayers.

Learn more about the work of the Salisbury-Sudan Link here.

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