South Sudan crisis – an update from the field

Residents of the leprosy community in Malek, before conflict devastated the village

Residents of the leprosy community in Malek, before conflict devastated the village

This is a guest post by Wilson Lado from The Leprosy Mission South Sudan. Read on to find out how the conflict there has devastated the people affected by leprosy that we’ve been working with, and what The Leprosy Mission is doing to help.

Since the start of the hostilities here in December 2013, it has been reported that thousands of people have died and around 800,000 have been displaced. Humanitarian assistance has reached less than half of these people. Already there are reports of starvation and outbreaks of disease among the displaced people in UN camps and at other locations. Displaced people are especially susceptible to disease and hunger and it is difficult to find food in these rural areas. Their livelihoods have been destroyed.

The people affected by leprosy that we’ve been working with in Malek had to abandon their meagre belongings and homes to cross the river Nile and flee to safety. They are still hiding out on a swampy island fearing for their lives, with no food or shelter. Sadly, two of the elderly leprosy affected women, who were left behind in their homes because of their limited mobility, have been killed.

In Luri Rokwe, which is located in Juba, the community was thankfully not too badly affected by the fighting. People affected by leprosy ran for safety to a nearby island. They came back to their homes after the fighting subsided, but their livelihoods have suffered. They have been crying out for food and basic necessities like cooking utensils.

It is beyond human comprehension that such poor people who were already so marginalised and neglected must now live like this. I don’t know how they have managed to cope without food, clean water, and other essentials. The Leprosy Mission is now helping by providing food aid, cooking oil, cooking utensils, blankets and farming tools so that families can start cultivating again.

For The Leprosy Mission’s staff in South Sudan, it is a difficult time. There has been a curfew in Juba and a sense of great uncertainty. There were increases in the price of food and other items. Many people fled Juba, especially foreign nationals who were evacuated and the town was empty. Things are now slowly and cautiously returning to normal.

Please pray for peace in South Sudan – this rift is so great and I believe that it is through God’s intervention that peace will come. Pray for the leaders of South Sudan that God guides them in their discussion of resolving this conflict for good of the people of South Sudan.

We must also pray for all the vulnerable persons here – disabled persons, the elderly, people affected by leprosy and children. In times of crisis they are forgotten and they are easy targets. Let God be their protector, provider and their guide.

We were incredibly thankful to the response to our emergency appeal for South Sudan in autumn 2013. The aid we planned to supply as a result was unfortunately disrupted by the outbreak of fighting as we are now unable to reach Malek, which is where the funds were supposed to target. Another NGO (Catholic Relief Services) have managed to access Bor, and will report back to The Leprosy Mission on the situation there, which will enable us to respond in the near future.

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