April 12 2013

Political stability in South Sudan creates humanitarian issues

12/4/2013 - President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan has today visited South Sudan, for the first time since it became independent in 2011. This follows an agreement reached in March that allows for the resumption of cross-border oil flows. After decades of war and recent disagreement between the two neighbours, the move has defused tension. However, a worrying humanitarian situation may unfold as a result.

The SOS Children’s Villages emergency response team in South Sudan is concerned about the conditions facing a large number of people returning from Sudan. Some 1,000 returnees are currently at a way station in Malakal, located at a border town in South Sudan. It has the capacity to accommodate 700 people. However, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that the current number stands at over 1,000; a number that is set to rise.


Children in South Sudan need food as they return to peace @Conor Ashleigh
One in three shildren in South Sudan are stunted due to malnutrition @ C. Ashleigh
This is a source of worry to SOS Children’s Villages. In partnership with local authorities and others, the emergency team in Malakal has scaled up its response. Provision of clean water, health services and sanitation is a priority, on foot of reports that a child has died earlier this week following a bout of diarrhoea. 


In a country where one third of all children are stunted due to malnutrition, three SOS Medical Centres in Malakal now provide much-needed services.  Alone in the past year, 9,000 people were treated here for malaria following an epidemic. To prevent the transmission of diseases such as cholera, training continues to be provided to educate the community on matters relating to hygiene and sanitation. 


Among children bullying and fights along tribal lines have ceased


Among children bullying and fights along tribal lines have ceased says SOS Children
Hungry to learn -SOS Children's Villages Child Freindly Spaces provide a safe and healthy environment for children @ K.Aregawi


Hygiene kits and other essential goods are being distributed to families and to over 270 children who now play in a safe and educational environment. “The success of our Child Friendly Spaces is clear,” says Mr Kiros Aregawi, Programme Manager for SOS Children’s Villages in South Sudan. 

“Bullying and fights along tribal lines have ceased. There is an increased interest in learning English – our new official language.

And, the nutritional status of children previously at risk of severe acute malnutrition is greatly improved. Meeting the needs of the additional children arriving now is a matter of urgency”, he said.

To ease the congestion and avoid a humanitarian crisis aid agencies are uniting to arrange onward transportation to help returnees return to their final destination. As the country lacks much-needed road infrastructure, air transport is being made available for those from the Bahr el Ghazal region in the west.  Busses and boats are ferrying returnees to other regions. 
Those who arrive today are happy that peace appears to have been restored. However, their immediate needs must be addressed to prevent a humanitarian crisis. At the way station and in Hai Salam the SOS Children’s Village team is providing children with the nourishment and care they urgently need.