South Sudan borders on the edge of famine two years after civil war erupts

Hunger and human rights violations continue

December 3, 2015

A partnership visit to Pibor, South Sudan, by Trinity Presbytery’s South Sudan Ministry. The ministry included medical and theological teams as well as a group that taught subsistence farming.

A partnership visit to Pibor, South Sudan, by Trinity Presbytery’s South Sudan Ministry. The ministry included medical and theological teams as well as a group that taught subsistence farming. —Bill Andress

LOUISVILLE

The Presbyterian Mission Agency has issued a call to prayer for the people of South Sudan, who have been battling hunger and human rights issues for years now. The situation took a turn for the worse after civil war broke out in December 2013. Ongoing fighting and skirmishes have resulted in more than 50,000 persons dead, 1.8 million people displaced and an estimated 3.5 million persons on the verge of starvation, according to Presbyterian Church leaders in the region.

“The human suffering in South Sudan is unimaginable,” said the Rev. James Makuei, executive director of the Presbyterian Relief and Development Agency (PRDA). “The dire humanitarian situation requires the collective efforts of all the well-wishers of South Sudan including the PC(USA) to intervene with urgency to stop the escalation of hostilities save lives and alleviate the human suffering.”

An estimated 34 percent of the population is facing severe food insecurity, an 80 percent increase compared with the same period a year ago. Aid workers and church officials say people have fled into swamps and other remote areas to avoid fighting; surviving on water lily roots and leaves alone. However, that resource is likely to diminish as the dry season approaches next month.

This fall, UN-backed authorities and specialists with Integrated Food Security Phase Classification visited the region warning of a “concrete risk of famine.” The war, coupled with a light rain season, theft of food supplies, and the abandonment of homes and fields have added to the crisis.

In addition to the shortage of food, authorities describe countless horror stories of human suffering including the massacre of women and children, rape, torture and forced displacement of people. Thousands of homes have been destroyed as well.

“The situation in Upper Nile couldn’t be graver in terms of loss of life and human suffering. It is a critical time for us to stand with our church partners, to help ‘the church be the church’ by demonstrating Christ’s love for those caught up in this nightmare,” said Debbie Braaksma, area coordinator for Africa in World Mission. “PRDA is poised to offer help but they need PC(USA) congregations and members to stand with them as they provide the needs of the women and children hiding in the swamps and islands. Coupling our prayers and giving with advocacy for peace is essential to end this human tragedy.”

The United Nations reports the atrocities against children are among the worst. The child marriage rate in South Sudan stands at 52 percent. In addition, the recruitment of child soldiers continues to escalate with an estimated 9,000 children fighting in the civil war.

Braaksma says there are three ways congregations can help.

“Pray that leaders will see the suffering and end the conflict, allowing humanitarian access to provide food to those in need, advocate for effective policy and action by the U.S. Government and support Presbyterian Disaster Assistance response to the food crisis,” she said. “Our partner, PRDA is providing temporary shelter, health supplies, maize, beans and cooking oil with special attention given to pregnant women, children under five and people with disabilities or chronic illness.”

Trinity Presbytery in South Carolina has been very involved in outreach efforts in South Sudan. A video has been posted with Bill Andress of the Presbyterian South Sudan/Sudan Mission Network.

"The United States helped to create the country of South Sudan and has continued interest in supporting this new country. Renewed fighting is making the already dire humanitarian situation throughout the country even worse. South Sudan must be a top priority for the United States in order to realize the agreement that the U.S. helped negotiate,” said the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, director of the Office of Public Witness. “We are asking Presbyterians to write to President Obama today and urge him to increase his diplomatic efforts and provide the necessary financial assistance to ensure that the peace agreement signed in August is fully implemented. If the U.S. does not take strong action, millions of lives will be at risk.”

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You can send a message today via the following link - http://capwiz.com/pcusa/issues/alert/?alertid=68775676

Those interested in giving to the relief efforts can donate online or send gifts to the PC (USA) marked for DR00042 South Sudan Response, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

For information on the South Sudan crisis, please visit the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance webpage.