[Anglican Alliance] Bishops from Equatoria, South Sudan, have given harrowing accounts of how recent conflict is affecting local communities and urged the Anglican Alliance and Anglican partners to advocate for relief assistance.
Recently the armed conflict that has severely affected the population of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei states for two years has spread to Greater Equatoria, the Anglican Alliance learned from representatives of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan & Sudan (ECSS&S) during a recent conference call that it hosted for Anglican Communion partners.
“It is important to speed up the process of mobilising resources so that help can reach people suffering now, with no water, no food, no medicine . . . Please share with friends, partners, so that people can get something. It’s a sad situation, very painful,” urged Bishop Stephen Dokolo of Lui Diocese.
Bishop Stephen explained that communities in Greater Equatoria depend on the land for their livelihood, growing and harvesting food to sustain them throughout the year. Pastoralist communities that rely on livestock have come from the north looking for green pastures for their animals.
“The two can’t really mix,” said Bishop Stephen. Underlying tensions have exploded into conflict, particularly when a governmental decree that the cattle should be taken back home was not respected, he reported. This escalated with the involvement of government forces. Communities have fled to the forest or further afield to camps in nearby towns or even Juba, the capital.
People hiding in the forest do not have access to water and are relying on wild plants for food, said Bishop Stephen.
There is also great concern that the current violence could result in longer term food insecurity given reports that farmers have not been able to harvest their crops. People have been attacked as they try to get back to their fields, reported the Revd Joseph El Hag, director of SUDRA, ECSS&S’s relief and development arm, and food granaries and shops looted and burned to the ground.
Meanwhile, the health situation is worrisome, said Bishop Tandema Andrew of Olo Diocese, with scarce food and medicine reaching remoter areas.
“People are dying, it is very precarious,” he said. “Children are dying of malaria, women are dying in childbirth, it is very difficult for people in the bush.”
The bishops also called for advocacy for peace to end the conflict that, according to the latest Global Emergencies reports, has left 6.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, displaced 1.7 million internally and caused 640,400 South Sudanese to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.
“Tell our brothers [and sisters], let this peace be implemented and let us help [the] Government of South Sudan and opposition to implement peace in South Sudan,” said Bishop Tandema.
The Anglican Alliance will continue to facilitate support from the Anglican Communion for Equatoria and other areas of South Sudan, and serve as an advocacy and “early-warning” platform for the churches, affirmed Dr Janice Proud, Anglican Alliance Relief and Programmes Manager.
“It is good to flag up the real threat to longer term food security. We keep seeing that with emergencies the Church is like an early warning system. We hear about a situation of impending food insecurity from the local church and then three to six months later it becomes international news. By partnering [we] can get things done,” she said.
Support the people of South Sudan
Please pray for the situation in South Sudan, both in Greater Equatoria and in the others areas affected by the conflict. Pray that the leaders of the different groups may listen to the cry of their people for peace, so that they and their children can return to their homes and resume their normal lives.