South Sudan (BGR/MNN) — There’s a nightmarish sense of déjà vu about South Sudan.
Two decades after Rwanda’s genocide, still in the shadow Ethiopia’s worst famine this century, the twin scourges are back. And this time, they’re focused on a single country. “This is a man-made disaster, and that is why we want the war to stop: [to] allow humanitarian access to the country,” President Salva Kiir told the BBC. “The civilian population is going to face one of the worst famines there has ever been….”
The world’s newest nation will barely be three years old and already is on the brink of catastrophe. It’s a combination of drought, poor crops, and man-made conflict. In addition, South Sudan is facing a cholera outbreak, said the international aid organization Oxfam.
Hopes for peace evaporated last December when fighting began. Since then, roughly 1 million people have left their homes to escape the violence. Baptist Global Response Executive Director Jeff Palmer says even if a ceasefire happened tomorrow, a food crisis would still emerge in a couple of months because farmers can’t get back to their fields. Humanitarian aid can’t keep up with the growing demand. “On top of the problems inside the country, you’ve got all the refugees that are out.” Living conditions in displacement sites continue to deteriorate due to flooding caused by heavy rains, especially in Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile.
While Non-government Organizations are doing a lot of work with feeding the hungry, BGR decided to find out where they could have the most impact. Their team surveyed about 30 small camps in overlooked areas and looked at the food, water, and shelter needs of about 80,000 to 100,000 people, and they listened to people’s stories. From there, Palmer says, “They said if they could have one thing, what they really needed was clean drinking water. We thought that was a priority for us, something that we could do.”
BGR contacted some of the local well-drilling partners for help. “What we decided that we could contribute was about three to four of those larger communities’ water systems that would help them get clean drinking water. So, we have a program where three or four deep wells are being put in now.”
Is hunger still a threat in these areas? It is. Why not mount a full scale response? Palmer explains, “It’s something that they asked for, prioritized, and something that was a good thing to help with a life-threatening situation.” Clean drinking water will keep people healthier, stymie the waterborne disease outbreaks, and provide people with a measure of human dignity.
Plus, “We’re there to help people in their deepest need. Yet, whether they know it or not, their deepest need is to have a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.” Palmer says relationships they build with the people they’re helping allow them a chance to communicate one idea: “It’s a message of hope. We’re concerned about the physical being, but we’re also concerned about the spiritual side, in the long run, of what happens to their lives.”
The loss is overwhelming. Compassion fatigue has since wiped this story from the headlines. Palmer parts with a gentle reminder: “These are real people with real faces and real lives and real needs.” Please pray for those suffering during this crisis, and if you would like to get involved, please donate.