Two years after independence from Sudan, the country of South Sudan has descended into chaotic conditions which have displaced civilians and resulted in deaths and casualties. More than one thousand people have died in the conflict over past few weeks, and it is estimated that 200,000 people have been forced to relocate. Because of the lack of direct reports, exact numbers of the victims are unavailable and various news sources have been quoting higher figures.
On December 15th, followers of the dismissed deputy president Riek Machar launched a coup, during which small patches of fighting broke out. The fighting soon escalating into violent incidents covering half of the ten states which make up the small country of South Sudan. The conflicts this past month began in the Upper Nile, an area rich in oil resources and where there is better infrastructure. Bor, a strategic city leading towards the capital Juba, has been attacked by the rebels, leading to continued fighting for control of the city.
As expected, the United Nations, which has been providing peacekeepers and humanitarian aid to South Sudan during the independence process, is dismayed at the renewal of violence. The UN is accommodating the tens of thousands of people fleeing dangerous situations at various facilities within the country.
The level of violence in the region has led the UN to report that the situation in South Sudan is dire, giving cause for worry about the feasibility of maintaining the welfare of the people living within South Sudan. The UN has called for the government of South Sudan to release political prisoners in order to open discussions with the rebel factor. Reports of ethnically targeted violence have also been revealed, thus creating considerable concern.
Because of South Sudan’s location in Eastern Africa, there is a substantial population of refugees from neighboring countries. Among the refugees are citizens of The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Sudan or returning citizens of South Sudan. These immigrants, numbering near a million people, are hit particularly hard during times of conflict, because they are left without stable sources of food, water and shelter. Infant mortality is high and there is a fear of a cholera outbreak. Many refugee camps are inaccessible during the summer flood season, and have only been visited in the past few months.
South Sudan just gained independence in 2011, so the infrastructure is underdeveloped. Any renewed fighting challenges the fragile stability of the young nation; this threatens the quality of life for its citizens and severely restricts accessibility to human rights.
“Years ago, we wiped the blood from the water with bloated bodies to drink,” said one South Sudanese a few months ago to a humanitarian aid worker, “so this water that comes into our office is considered very clean.”
The water is not by any means clean by Western standards. Aid workers are at great risk in the country which is ranked the third most dangerous in the world for humanitarians. The fighting comes at a particularly bad time; many of the aid workers have left for their winter holidays. This is creating a desperate situation for those who remain in the country, and who are working to secure the welfare of the citizens and political refugees within South Sudan.
By Persephone Abbott