South Sudan faces conflict, humanitarian crisis and famine

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned that South Sudan is “a forgotten conflict” facing a “humanitarian crisis” made worse by the pandemic, while the United Nations (UN) Chief cautioned that 60 per cent of people in the world’s newest nation are “increasingly hungry”.

South Sudan has been struggling to recover from five years of war that at least one study said killed almost 400,000 people. The ICRC’s Robert Mardini, who visited South Sudan last week, called it “one of the most complex humanitarian crises anywhere”. And he said “now alarmingly we see severe food shortages and a largely unquantifiable prevalence of COVID-19 which are making an already catastrophic situation even worse.

While hostilities between the main parties may have ceased or been reduced, Mardini told AP that “fighting with smaller parties and splinter groups and between communities is unfortunately continuing to cause death, destruction and displacement”.

Making the rounds at Akabo County Hospital in eastern Jonglei state, which serves close to 200,000 people, Mardini said he saw several people recovering from gunshot wounds,
including children.

He said they were victims of intercommunal violence that is endemic in the country and the result of historic rivalries, often over cattle and land but sometimes over political agendas orchestrated from the capital.

Other patients’ injuries were much less obvious because they were victims of rape and sexual assault, which has soared in the conflict, and there were several children being treated for malnutrition, some for malaria at the same time, Mardini said in an online interview from Switzerland on Wednesday.

“These cases are just the very tip of the iceberg,” Mardini said.

“Our most recent assessment shows that last year’s harvest was around half of what it was in the previous year in nine of the 10 country’s states.

“And this fragility is not only due to conflict but the impact of the current crisis and disasters of epic scale, most recently last year’s floods that affected over one million people, and Jonglei state was one of the worst affected,” he said.