South Sudan: Stepping Back in Time

Six weeks after conflict erupted, a look at the lives of South Sudan's thousands of displaced citizens
South Sudan
Our teams are committed to helping displaced citizens of South Sudan. Photo: C. Duroseau

There were no Christmas or New Year celebrations for the South Sudanese population this year. Instead Juba, the capital of the newest country in the world, erupted in gunshots and artillery fire in mid-December. The violence quickly spread across the country to cities like Bentiu and Bor. This resulted in mass displacement of 770,000 people, leaving thousands dead and plunging the nation, which was only just recovering from the ravages of a decades-long war with Sudan, into depths of uncertainty, desperation and fear—and most importantly, a colossal humanitarian crisis.

Twic county, in Warrap state, experienced a massive influx of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) from  neighboring Unity State as a result of the clashes. Action Against Hunger has been focusing our response in the numerous IDP camps here, including the two largest, Man Awan and Man Anguei, where the total number of IDPs is currently estimated to be more than 17,000.

Akuno Atak Chol is one of those many affected individuals. He shared his experience:

“We walked for five days. We faced a lot of challenges… we had nothing to eat on the first two days. We had no good drinking water. We felt very tired and weak. But we continued to walk until we reached this camp [Man Awan]. When we arrived, the team from Action Against Hunger measured our children’s weight, height and arms and then gave them a peanut food that has lots of nutrients [Plumpy’nut]. The children who were too sick and couldn’t eat that food were taken to an Action Against Hunger clinic for treatment.”

Jogie Agbogan, our nutrition coordinator for South Sudan, provided her thoughts from the camps:

“There is so much desperation on people’s faces. The population, including the host communities, is in dire need of food. The area is at the peak of its summer and is very hot and dry. Everyone is lamenting about the increase in prices of basic commodities as supplies dwindle in the market. This food insecurity will deteriorate the overall health situation.”

In addition to running our regular nutrition programs, we’ve screened over 2,500 children for malnutrition in four camps, with those identified as needing immediate treatment admitted into our stabilization centers. ACF teams have been conducting Infant and Young Child Feeding ( IYCF), health and nutrition promotion in three camps. With assistance from the World Food Program, we’ve distributed nutrient-dense BP-5 biscuits and Corn-Soy Blend (CSB ++) to thousands of children in Man Anguei and Man Awan.  We’ve also set up an additional facility in the Man Awan site for treating children suffering from severe acute malnutrition and providing them with supplementary feeding.

We’ve also scaled up our water and sanitation programs, and worked with UNICEF to distribute non-food items like hygiene kits and water purification tablets to nearly 1,000 households. “ACF remains committed to delivering desperately needed emergency assistance to those displaced by the recent violence, as well as the already vulnerable host communities,” said Rebeckah Piotrowski, program coordinator for us in South Sudan. And that support will continue to mean a lot to those it helps.

Akuno Atal Chol explained,  “We are very happy that Action Against Hunger takes good care of our children in the clinic and here in the camp. They come every day to help us with many other things that we really need. What they’ve been doing in this very difficult situation will never be forgotten by any of us who are here in this camp,” said Chol.

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About Sanjida S. Tawhid

Sanjida S. Tawhid

Sanjida is our Operations Adviser in South Sudan, one of the leaders in coordinating our humanitarian efforts in the world's newest nation.