ACT responds to 'disaster' in South Sudan

Friday, January 13, 2012 • by Mara Caputo

ACT Alliance is assisting civilians displaced by the most recent spate of inter-communal violence in the Jonglei state of South Sudan and urges a quick end to hostilities. On January 4th, the government in Juba declared Jonglei a “humanitarian disaster area” and requested international assistance.

“The world cheered the birth of the South Sudanese state last year, even knowing the tremendous challenges to be faced. Now the people of Jonglei must be supported quickly – to end violence, protect civilians and provide humanitarian assistance even in the most remote areas where access proves difficult,” stated ACT’s General Secretary, John Nduna.

The United Nations estimates that more than 60,000 people have been displaced by this latest round of armed conflict between two ethnic groups, the Lou Nuer and Murle. Most civilians needing assistance have been living in the bush for approximately two weeks – many without access to food, water and shelter.

The violence in Jonglei erupted last month following a series of cattle raids and abductions. The longstanding tensions are fuelled by decades of underdevelopment and the proliferation of small arms in the state, the biggest in South Sudan.

ACT’s coordinated response is being spearheaded by The Lutheran World Federation. LWF, whose main programme area in South Sudan is based in Jonglei, was able to quickly mobilise humanitarian supplies from its existing stocks in the town of Pibor.

LWF is also working in concert with the UN and other NGOs on the ground – including ACT member Norwegian Church Aid – to meet the basic needs of those displaced by the violence.

A push for peace

ACT is also working to address the larger context of conflict from which the humanitarian emergency has evolved. The Sudan Council of Churches continues to provide leadership in peace and reconciliation efforts between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities along with local and national leaders and international agencies.

The emergency in Jonglei is only the most recent example of several ongoing humanitarian challenges stemming from inter-communal and inter-ethnic conflict in the world’s youngest country, which officially gained statehood in July 2011.

“We appeal not only for an end to violence in Jonglei but also in other parts of South Sudan that are currently facing conflict and instability,” Nduna urged.

“A sustainable peace process is critical to bringing stability to the region and paving the way for development. The UN, the South Sudanese government and donor governments should act promptly – not only to support the victims of this conflict, but to find a solution to end it,” he concluded.