South Sudan famine eases but scores still going hungry

Women and children wait to be registered prior to a food distribution carried out by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Thonyor, Leer state, South Sudan, February 26, 2017. Photo: Reuters
JUBA, South Sudan – A famine that was declared in parts of South Sudan four months ago is over, UN aid agencies said Wednesday, but extreme hunger has increased to its highest levels ever across the war-torn country.”The accepted technical definition of famine no longer applies in former Unity State’s Leer and Mayandit counties where famine was declared in February,” according to a joint statement from the UN children’s agency UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

READ: South Sudan buys weapons during famine: UN report 

The manmade famine, due to three years of conflict, has affected 100,000 people. The term famine is used according to a globally agreed scale determined by levels of access to food, acute malnutrition and daily deaths due to hunger.

But while the famine has eased, the number of people struggling to find food each day has grown to six million from 4.9 million in February, in what the agencies said was the “highest level of food insecurity ever experienced in South Sudan.”

: Africa country in crisis: Tunisia,Egypt,Mali,Sudan,CAR,South Sudan,Niger. That’s over 250 million lives at risk,hunger and famine.

And the number of people facing emergency levels of hunger — one step below famine — has increased to 1.7-million from one million in February. “The crisis is not over. We are merely keeping people alive but far too many face extreme hunger on the edge of a cliff,” said the FAO’s director of emergencies Dominique Burgeon.

READ: South Sudan declares famine in parts of war-torn country 

“The only way to stop this desperate situation is to stop the conflict, ensure unimpeded access and enable people to resume their livelihoods.”

Fields empty as war rages

South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, was plunged into civil war in 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his rival and former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup against him.

The violence — initially between ethnic Dinka supporters of Kiir and ethnic Nuer supporters of Machar — has since spread to other parts of the country, engulfing other ethnic groups. An August 2015 peace deal was left in tatters when fighting broke out in Juba in July last year.

The United Nations has warned of potential genocide and ethnic cleansing in the country, where there seems to be no prospect of peace in sight. Farming communities have been driven from their homes, leaving fields unharvested and markets disrupted, and food prices have soared.

More than 3.5-million people have been displaced by the conflict, and tens of thousands killed. The UN agencies warned that gains made in the famine-struck areas must not be lost and that emergency food aid was still crucial to prevent a return to crisis situations.

“Food insecurity is a key issue, but so is lack of health care, poor water and sanitation and, most crucially, access to those children in need of treatment. At present, too many parts of the country remain cut off due to insecurity, leaving hundreds of thousands of children on the cusp of catastrophe,” said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan.

Severe drought across eastern Africa has left millions hungry in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, and with yet another poor rainy season just ending, humanitarians have warned the situation could grow even worse.

AFP

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I Spent 4 Days In Jail In South Sudan. I Won’t Stop Reporting On The Crisis There

Link to web article here.

Internally displaced people gather by a water collection point in a United Nations site outside South Sudan’s capital city Juba in January. South Sudan’s civil war has killed tens of thousands and driven out some 1.8 million people.

There is a certain peace that comes with being surrounded by a bunch of men with big guns.

As much as you want to run or fight or scream, there’s not much you can do — except whatever they say.

On a Friday afternoon in April, I was sitting in a restaurant in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, trying to convince two government officials to issue me press credentials so I could report there. I had tried and failed to do this over the phone from my home base in Nairobi, and so my bosses and I made the decision that an in-person appeal would be best.

I flew to Juba, and this was the moment of truth. The two government officials and I made small talk for a while, and then I sheepishly said, “So…”

One of them grinned.

“We’ll give you the credential. You can come pick it up on Monday,” he said.

NPR’s Eyder Peralta

We were mid-celebration, in the middle of our beers, when half-a-dozen men with guns showed up. They were in plain clothes, carrying assault rifles.

“I need you to come with me quietly,” one of the men said.

“I’m not coming with you; I don’t even know who you are,” I protested.

“National security,” he said, as the guys with guns stepped closer.

I looked at the government officials still sitting at my table and they looked as shocked as I was. I knew then that I was going with these guys wherever they wanted to take me.

So we walked down a dark hallway, out a back door, into the hot afternoon and an alley crawling with more men with weapons. They were all young, some of them in military uniforms. They looked like teenagers hanging in the alley behind a movie theater. But as they saw us coming out, they all clutched their old AK-47s and moved toward me.

When I prepare for assignments like these, I think through the risks. In this case, the South Sudanese media authority was not pleased with my previous coverage of the dire refugee situation in neighboring Uganda, so they did not want to grant me a press pass before coming to their country. But sometimes as a journalist, you have to insist and show up anyway. You have to try. You have to tell an unsympathetic government official, “Look, I’m here in search of an explanation for one of the worst conflicts in the world and I want you to let me tell these stories.”

When I ran through that scenario, I thought the worst case would be that the official would laugh. He would tell me, “You’re not welcome in South Sudan” — and I’d be escorted to the airport to catch the next plane out.

Just a few minutes earlier, in the restaurant, everything seemed to be turning out much better than I’d expected.

But now, the young men with guns forced me onto the back of a pickup truck. I was on my back, caged in by two benches above me. The bed was soaked in gasoline. I could smell it. I could feel it soaking through my shirt. I could feel the vibration of the engine in my body and I could see the tops of buildings zoom past.

Every once in a while, the guys with weapons, who were sitting on the benches above me, took a peek at me. I tried to keep track of the turns we were making and tried to look for landmarks. But it felt like we were driving in circles. We accelerated. I felt the bed of the truck turn hot, and suddenly, the top of buildings disappeared.

I tried to keep my mind from going to dark places. But it did anyway. Maybe these guys were driving me to some field somewhere, where I’d be forced to kneel and I’d feel the muzzle of one those weapons on the back of my head.

A burgeoning humanitarian crisis

In July 2011, South Sudan became the darling of the international community. With a referendum, it ended the longest-running war on the African continent and the 10 southern states of Sudan formed their own independent country.

On the streets of Juba, there was elation. The two biggest tribes split leadership: Salva Kiir, a Dinka, won the presidency and Riek Machar, a Nuer, was his vice president.

The hope was that the South Sudanese, who had for so long suffered under the oppressive regime of Khartoum, could finally build their own country — in peace.

But that was not to be. In 2013, Kiir accused Machar of organizing a coup. He fired him, and a civil war erupted.

In the summer of 2015, the international community helped broker a deal that called for a ceasefire and for Machar to come back to Juba and resume his vice presidency.

By the spring of 2016, Machar had returned, but by summer, a fresh war broke out. Machar was injured and close to death as he was carried across the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo. Eventually, with the help of the United Nations, he went into exile in South Africa, where he still lives.

Families wait for a food aid delivery at Uganda’s Bidi Bidi refugee camp in February. Bidi Bidi is home to more than 270,000 people who’ve fled South Sudan’s civil war and is the biggest refugee camp in the world.

Since then, the conflict has spread, sparking famine and a mass exodus. More than 50,000 have been killed since 2013. This year, precipitated by war, South Sudan surpassed Syria to become the fastest growing humanitarian crisis in the world. There are now some 1.8 million South Sudanese refugees. Salva Kiir remains in power.

‘You’re an Arab’

After the truck stopped, the men escorted me into a two-story building. The power was out so they pointed at me with flashlights, accusing me of being a spy.

“You’re an Arab,” one of them told me.

The South Sudanese won their independence after a bloody fight with the Arab north. I knew the implication, and it scared me.

I told them I was Latino, born in Nicaragua, raised in the U.S.

“You’re an Arab and you don’t even know it,” the man responded.

He took me out of the office and up some stairs, where I saw some men gathered behind iron bars. It was the first time I realized I was in a prison.

The place was hot and the air felt completely still. I could see only what the officer pointed at with his flashlight — fragments of tile floor, dirty walls, a wooden door. I could smell sweat mixing with the gasoline on my shirt and I could hear the clatter of the prisoners as they clamored to get a look at me. The officer barked at them to get back in their cells and they scattered in seconds.

My heart was racing. Before I knew it, the officer was pushing me into a cell toward the back of the prison.

“There’s some water,” he said, closing the door.

And then everything went black, as if my eyes had suddenly closed. I felt my way to the ground and touched the concrete with my palms. It was warm. Somehow the sun had worked its way through steel and concrete and onto this floor. I ran my hands across the water bottles but they felt gritty, like they had been dragged through dirt.

In the distance, I could hear tracked vehicles, probably tanks, moving across the terrain and every once in a while, a helicopter zooming past. Just outside my cell, I could hear the prisoners talking and playing dominoes.

If there is one thing darkness does, it lights up your mind. I thought of Miami, where I was raised. I thought of my wife and my little girls. I thought about all of the brutality that this government had inflicted on civilians.

Three days, I thought. That’s how long I’ve heard humans can survive without water and there’s no way they’d let me die in here.

‘I think we made a mistake’

One of the defining characteristics of the South Sudanese conflict is its brutality. A few months ago, I flew to Uganda and drove up to the border with South Sudan. Thousands of people crossed over each day, fleeing the violence.

Each one brought harrowing stories: They saw women being gang-raped. They described government soldiers going door to door and killing civilians because of their tribe. One woman told me that as she fled her village, she saw the bodies of her neighbors thrown near a ditch.

The violence is systematic and widespread. The United Nations, Human Rights Watch and a monitor set up by East African states have all documented government atrocities.

A report by the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan documented the torching of an entire village. Satellite images had tipped off investigators to the events taking place, and when they finally made into Yei, just southwest of Juba, they found a breakdown of humanity.

In one case, they found that government soldiers had disrupted a funeral. According to residents, the soldiers claimed the deceased was a rebel. They assaulted mourners and when a man and woman suggested the man was just old and died of natural causes, soldiers took them outside. The woman was raped before both of them were shot dead.

Not far away, investigators found that pro-government militias had tied up six civilians, threw them inside a hut and set it on fire.

South Sudanese people in Unity State wait to receive medical treatment at a village clinic on Feb. 17.

The South Sudanese government has refuted reporting from refugee camps and these official investigations, saying the refugees fleeing the conflict are lying and the president has ordered soldiers who perpetrate atrocities to be punished. But a panel of experts commissioned by the United Nations Security Council found that the government’s inability or unwillingness to prevent or punish abuses is “a key driver of the war.”

The panel of experts also found that as the conflict drags on, it has taken an increasingly tribal dimension. Last December, the U.N.’s Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan warned that the country was in a process of “ethnic cleansing … using starvation, gang rape and the burning of villages.”

At a refugee camp in Uganda, a South Sudanese Nuer man named John told me that in his village, government soldiers walked door to door. If you didn’t speak Dinka, the language of the ruling tribe, you were killed.

“It was the national soldiers, the ones who started this,” he said. “Slaughtering people, shooting people, tying people.”

He told me he remembered independence day in 2011 vividly. People, he said, walked for hours to get to Juba to celebrate the birth of a new nation.

But underneath that mango tree, in the middle of that refugee camp, he was doubting all that joy. He was questioning whether the people of South Sudan were better off now than they had been under brutal Sudanese rule.

“I think we made a mistake,” he said.

A shared dinner, a sense of familiarity

At some point, the prisoners outside my cell went completely quiet, but the helicopters and tracked vehicles kept going all night. No one came to check on me. I felt completely alone trying to find comfort on a bare concrete floor and trying to quiet my mind.

At some point, I closed my eyes. When I opened them, I saw a sliver of light sneaking in through a tiny hole near the ceiling. A couple of prisoners came by to peer through a tiny window in the door. They asked if I was OK, and one of them came back a few minutes later.

Soldiers cheer at a ceremony marking the 34th anniversary of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, attended by President Salva Kiir, in Juba on May 18.

“Don’t tell anyone we spoke to you,” he said.

It was hours after I saw that sliver of light that a soldier opened the door to my cell. Honestly, I was scared. Who else was the government keeping in this place? What would they do to me?

I walked out cautiously, but into brightness. The prison was all concrete. There were prisoners sleeping along the hallways. Dozens of plastic bottles filled with dirty water were neatly stacked in every corner.

Just outside my cell, an old man was lying on a frail mat. He stood up with a bowl in his hand. He looked sad, skinny; but offered me some posha, corn flour that has been boiled into a kind of dough.

The last 15 hours had been miserable and isolating, but all of sudden, I felt like I was stepping into humanity. The prisoners stopped by, introducing themselves one by one. They shared tips — you’re free to use the shower shoes outside the toilet; don’t talk to the man three doors down in solitary. They offered to wash my gasoline-soaked shirt. At one point, the guards gave me back some of my money and told me I could order anything I wanted from the market.

I ordered bread, Cokes, shawarmas — enough for everyone. It was delivered within hours by one of the prison officials. The other prisoners and I shared dinner on the floor. Some of them told me they had been held for two years, others for three. They said that they had never been charged and that they had never appeared before a judge.

George Livio was one of them — a South Sudanese journalist for a United Nations-funded news outlet who reported on corruption. He’d been held since August 2014. Every morning, he woke up thinking this was the day he would finally be released. But by now, he had missed watching his three young children grow up.

Justine Wanawila was another prisoner — a former Catholic priest. He said authorities accused him of feeding rebels. They threw him on a plane and brought him to Juba. On a couple of mornings while I was there, he led the prisoners in praying the rosary.

I listened from my cell and told him it reminded me of my grandmother. I thanked him for the familiarity.

“You came to South Sudan to report on what the government is doing to innocent people,” he told me. “You can still do that from here.”

‘We all want peace’

When NPR informed the U.S. embassy of my detention in Juba, the embassy sent consular officers to come check on me daily. It was a relief to be walked out of the prison and into another building and to know that my family, my country, my place of work knew where I was.

But every time I made that walk, a South Sudanese officer would pull me into his office after the U.S. officials had left. He was a lean, angular guy, and he sat on his chair thumbing through a Bill Nye book. Sometimes he would just stare at me for minutes at a time. I wouldn’t break eye contact because I wanted to show him that I had nothing to hide.

He asked questions — “Is it fair that your country is slaughtering civilians? Is it fair that they keep prisoners in secret prisons?” — but every time I tried to talk, he’d interrupt with warnings and boasts about how South Sudan could kill me and my family if it wanted us dead.

I remember when he said that, another officer in military fatigues was in his office. He smiled. It was gentle, but also clear that he found this whole scene a little entertaining.

“Eyder,” he said. “Have you ever been a soldier?”

I chuckled.

“Never.”

He wanted to know what life was like in New York City, how kids went to school. He wanted to know what life would be like if you didn’t have to be on the run. Most South Sudanese have had to flee multiple times in their lives. Some of the refugees I spoke with in Uganda could remember hiding in the bush with their parents when they were attacked by Sudanese troops. Now they had fled with their own kids.

Before we could talk, the first officer sent me off. The next day, he called me back to his office and he shouted that the United States was undermining the independence of South Sudan. He was agitated, belligerent.

I lowered my voice and I told him that he had to listen to me.

A person, I told him, is not a country, and also, he didn’t know me. I told him I was a child of war, born during the civil war in Nicaragua. Like so many of his people, my family fled. We found peace and a home in the United States.

It’s not a perfect country, I told him, but it was instrumental in supporting South Sudanese independence — and it was also, right now, paying for more than half the food that is being dropped out of airplanes in famine-hit areas.

His demeanor changed. His voice became softer.

“Eyder,” he said. “When you go back to your country, I want you to tell your people that we all want peace.”

He pointed out the window. He said in that direction was the first paved road most South Sudanese had ever seen.

“We’re trying to build a country,” he said.

This war, this killing, he said, is necessary to emerge a stronger country.

At that moment, I had no doubt he believed it. I nodded. But I also suspected that to the millions of South Sudanese who have been forced from their homes and to those who have lost children, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, those words would sound hollow.

I was released from jail without charges on May 1, four days after I was picked up. George Livio, the United Nations journalist, was released without charges on May 26, after two years and nine months.

A government official drove me to the airport for my deportation to Kenya.

“You are welcome in South Sudan,” he said. “This was all a misunderstanding.”

South Sudan is the biggest tragedy unfolding on the continent today. It’s not a story you just let go. I told him that maybe someday, I would test that invitation.

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New report blames South Sudan military for civilian deaths

Link to web article here.

In this photo taken Monday, June 19, 2017, Elizabeth Adwok, left, an ethnic Shilluk who arrived with her seven children in April after having been forcefully displaced from her home three times since South Sudan’s conflict began, cooks sorghum in her small hut in the village of Aburoc, South Sudan where she lives with other displaced people. A new report by Amnesty International says South Sudanese forces burned, shelled and ransacked homes between January and May, killing civilians and forcing thousands from the Shilluk ethnic minority to flee. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick)

Albin Koolekheh watched his 4-year-old son die in his arms. He and his family were among tens of thousands of people who escaped a wave of fighting in South Sudan’s civil war, only to find themselves living in a filthy camp near the border with Sudan.

A new report by Amnesty International says South Sudanese forces burned, shelled and ransacked homes between January and May, killing civilians and forcing thousands like Koolekheh from the Shilluk ethnic minority to flee.

“Even considering South Sudan’s history of ethnic hostility,” the mass displacement was shocking, the report says.

As South Sudan faces its fourth year of civil war, the fighting shows no signs of ending. Both government and opposition forces have been accused of war crimes including mass rape and targeted killings, while the United Nations warns of ethnic violence. While the focus has been on ethnic tensions between the Dinka of President Salva Kiir and the Nuer of rebel leader Riek Machar, the new report highlights the threat to others caught in the crossfire.

When government troops attacked his hometown of Wau Shilluk in January, Koolekheh grabbed his wife and three children and left. After a day of walking through the bush, his youngest son fell sick. With no food or water, the boy died on the side of the road.

“Bullets, guns, screaming, it was everywhere,” the weary 32-year-old father told The Associated Press this week. “This violence is known to the world. But what is everyone doing about it?”

Now Koolekheh crouches on the dirt floor in the back room of a small shop, scrubbing metal bowls with a rag, his eyes fixed on the floor.

He and his family are sheltering in Aburoc, an ad hoc displaced person’s camp. At the peak of the fighting, 25,000 people were living in this bleak shantytown. Now roughly 10,000 remain, the rest gone to Sudan or nearby villages.

Makeshift houses with plastic roofs are scattered across muddy fields. Food is scarce and disease is rife. A cholera outbreak threatened the population in May.

Yet many have no choice but to call this town home. This is their third or fourth attempt at finding refuge in less than six months after being uprooted over and over by violence.

Satellite imagery collected by Amnesty International shows the destruction of homes and other civilian buildings, including a temple, in the central areas of Wau Shilluk.

The group’s report says government troops often deliberately killed civilians, shooting them in the back when they tried to flee.

“These accounts are unfounded,” said a South Sudan military spokesman, Col. Santo Domic Chol. He said it isn’t within the military’s mandate to kill civilians and chase them from their homes.

Yet stories abound of families fleeing for their lives.

When government forces attacked the nearby opposition-held town of Kodok three months ago, Victoria Adhong said she fled and will never go back. Although Aburoc is currently peaceful, Adhong, the acting governor of Fashoda state, said it’s hard to feel safe when the “enemy’s next door.”

Another of the displaced, Elizabeth Adwok, said she fled Kodok with her seven children amid gunfire. They arrived in Aburoc in April and have struggled to find food, with little in the market and prices high.

“We’re not here because we like it,” Adwok said. “But we have nothing.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross, one of the few organizations with a presence in Aburoc, warned that with the onset of the rainy season things will only get worse.

“Access to food, water and health care is extremely limited,” said Matthieu Desselas, head of the office in Kodok.

But for the thousands of civilians already so far from their homes, this town is their last hope.

“It’s the only place left for me in South Sudan,” Koolekheh said. “I’ll stay here until there’s peace.”

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Pope Pledges More Than $500,000 in South Sudan Aid

Link to web article here.

Pope Francis is offering 460,000 euros (more than $500,000) in aid for South Sudan to help finance two hospitals, a school and farm equipment.

The Associated Press

In this photo taken Monday, June 19, 2017, a displaced family carrying their belongings walks in search of refuge towards the village of Aburoc, South Sudan. A new report by Amnesty International says South Sudanese forces burned, shelled and ransacked homes between January and May, killing civilians and forcing thousands from the Shilluk ethnic minority to flee. (AP Photo/Sam Mednick) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is offering 460,000 euros (more than $500,000) in aid for South Sudan to help finance two hospitals, a school and farm equipment.

Francis had hoped to visit South Sudan in October to draw attention to the plight of its people faced with starvation and civil war, but called off the trip because the conditions wouldn’t permit it.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, Francis’ point-man for peace and refugee issues, said Wednesday the aid project aims to show his personal solidarity with South Sudan’s people.

The money will go to help fund two hospitals run by the Combonian missionary sisters, a primary school run by a humanitarian group “Solidarity with South Sudan” and an agricultural project run by the Vatican’s Caritas foundation.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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South Sudan faces acute fuel shortage

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June 20, 2017 (JUBA) – Fuel shortage in South Sudan worsened on Tuesday amid reports of massive corruption in the national oil supplier, Nile Petroleum (NilePet), with a liter costing 110 South Sudan Pound, the highest price for gasoline ever recorded.

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Motorcycles line up for hours to get fuel before it runs out July 18, 2012 in Juba, South Sudan. (Getty)

Early this week, commuters and public transport system were paralysed in the capital Juba and government departments closed.

A government administrator said his ministry’s offices remained closed this week, due to shortage of fuel to power the generator.

“We have sent many, very many letters to NilePet requesting fuel for our generator for the last three weeks but never got a single litter because we did not pay bribes. A liter costs 22 SSP at the station but you have to pay extra 8 SSP per litter and extra 5,000 SSP to the national security to escort the fuel tank to the ministry,” the ministry official, who asked not to be identified, told Sudan Tribune Tuesday.

NilePet imports fuel from neighbouring East African countries since oil producing South Sudan has no oil refinery, but only one-third of fuel demands is covered and sold at official price of 22 SSP per litter, a quarter of the black market price of about 160 SSP or $1 per litter. But on Tuesday, a liter of petrol reached its highest level ever.

“Right now, water bottle of one and half litters costs 220 SSP. That means, a litter is sold at least 140 SSP,” said Peter, a taxi driver.

Mary Achai, a black market dealer, confirmed the souring price, attributing it to lack fuel and rising prices of food items in the market.

“We [black market dealers] buy this fuel from the Security [officials] at a very price and had to make a little profit,” explained Achai.

NilePet has, however, denied manipulating fuel supplies for it benefits and in a statement issued on Tuesday said several fuel tanks were heading to Juba from Nimule at South Sudan- Uganda border.

In various locations of the South Sudanese capital, the average price for a litter of fuel went for 115 SSP, which is six times the official price.

(ST)

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UN-BACKED REPORT: SOUTH SUDAN NO LONGER CLASSIFIED AS IN FAMINE

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An estimated 6 million people, half the population, are expected to be severely food insecure.

Residents from South Sudan pictured at the protection of civilians (PoC) site adjacent to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) base. Picture: United Nations.

Residents from South Sudan pictured at the protection of civilians (PoC) site adjacent to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) base. Picture: United Nations.

JUBA – South Sudan is no longer classified as being in famine, although 45,000 people in Jonglei and Unity states are expected to remain in famine-like conditions and the situation is still very critical, a UN-backed food security report said on Wednesday.

An estimated six million people, half the population, are expected to be severely food insecure this month and next, the report said.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report was based on a survey by a working group including government and UN officials.

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More S. Sudanese refugees flee into Sudan: UNHCR

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South Sudanese refugees in White Nile State receive humanitarian assistance on 27 February 2017 (SUNA photo)
June 17, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – South Sudanese refugees have continued to flee into neighbouring Sudan, seeking safety in the country it seceded from five years ago.

As of 31 May, the refugee population in South Sudan stood at 272,935 individuals, consisting of 65,781 households spread in 21 different locations across South Sudan, the U.N refugee agency (UNHCR), said.

In April, South Sudan received 1,493 new arrivals mainly from Sudan’s South Kordofan, and registered 2,397 new born babies mainly from Sudan’s South Kordofan region. 52% of the refugees are female, with women and children representing 82% of the total population.

The Sudanese refugee population remains the largest at 251,767 individuals (92%) followed by Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) 14,541 individuals (5%), Ethiopia 4,739 individuals (2%) and Central African Republic (CAR)1,853 (1%). The majority (90%) of these refugees are hosted in South Sudan’s Upper Nile and Unity regions.

More than 375,000 South Sudanese — nearly 90% of them women and children — have fled to Sudan since the outbreak of civil war in 2013. Only Uganda, with 883,000 registered arrivals, hosts more South Sudanese refugees than does Sudan.

Some 23,000 South Sudanese, according to UNHCR crossed into Sudan last month, bringing the total so far this year to 108,000.

The UN estimates that up to 50,000 additional South Sudanese could flee to Sudan in the next month as fighting and hunger intensify in areas near the border.

The U.N lacks the resources needed to respond adequately to this mass exodus. A plea for $167 million to care for South Sudan refugees in Sudan is less than 10% funded.

The Khartoum-based Sudan government has been cooperating with efforts to assist refugees from the territory it formerly ruled. Sudanese authorities have also agreed to open three “humanitarian corridors” into South Sudan to enable food and other aid to reach vulnerable civilians more quickly.

(ST)

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World refugee crisis growing, fastest in South Sudan

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World refugee crisis growing, fastest in South Sudan

The number of refugees in the world by the end of 2016 hit record high of 65.5 million, an increase of 300,000 people over the previous year as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations.

This figure was disclosed in a report by the United Nation refugee agency (UNHCR) ahead of the World Refugee Day on Tuesday.

South-Sudan remained as the country with the fastest-growing refugee population with 64 per cent increase by mid-2016 from 854,100 to over 1.4 million. About half of this population was children.

In total, about 3.3 million South Sudanese had fled their homes by the end of 2016 – including 1.9 million IDPs and 1.4 million refugees in neighbouring countries – in what is known as the fastest-growing displacement of people in the world.

The figure illustrates the need for countries and communities supporting refugees and other displaced people to be robustly resourced and supported.

South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic and Afghanistan produced 55 per cent of all refugees worldwide.

5.5 million people in South Sudan are expected to be severely food insecure by mid 2017 due to the conflict and the poor economy, the report predicts.

The report indicates that developing countries host the majority of the world’s refugees with about 84 per cent of the people in low- or middle-income countries as of end 2016.

In Africa, Uganda hosts the highest number of refugees, nearly a million; followed by Ethiopia (791,631); DR Congo (451,956); and Kenya (451,099).

On June 22, Uganda will host the solidarity summit on refugees, jointly organized with the UN Refugee Agency, to raise money to manage and find solutions to the crisis.

In neighbouring Sudan, there are an estimated 8,500 Chadian refugees while Chad hosts 317,000 Sudanese refugees.

The two countries and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) signed two separate tripartite agreements in May on the voluntary return of the refugees to their countries.

UNHCR is calling for support of countries hosting refugees as the numbers are likely to rise due to ongoing conflicts.

“The figure illustrates the need for countries and communities supporting refugees and other displaced people to be robustly resourced and supported,” the agency said.

“This huge imbalance reflects several things including the continuing lack of consensus internationally when it comes to refugee hosting and the proximity of many poor countries to regions of conflict,” it added.

The world marks the annual World Refugee Day on June 20, 2017 to reflect on the crisis and to find solutions.

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TAKE GREATER RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR PEOPLE, UN REFUGEE CHIEF TELLS SOUTH SUDAN

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UNHCR was still there, helping many of the same people now fleeing an internal conflict, he told local government officials in the northern town of Bentiu.

Refugee children from South Sudan walk in Bidibidi resettlement camp in the Northern District of Yumbe on 14 April, 2017. Picture: AFP.

The United Nations called on South Sudan’s leaders to take more responsibility for stemming the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis, as it said the number of people displaced worldwide had risen to a record 65.6 million.

The head of the UN’s UNHCR refugee agency, Filippo Grandi, said world powers had to step up pressure on South Sudan’s warring parties to go back to talks on ending a civil war that has forced about a third of the population to flee.

In South Sudan to launch the UNHCR’s annual refugee report, Grandi said his agency had already worked there for decades, helping hundreds of thousands fleeing the territory’s long wars with Khartoum.

UNHCR was still there, helping many of the same people now fleeing an internal conflict, he told local government officials in the northern town of Bentiu.

“Now, the authorities have a greater responsibility because they are in charge of this country and it is under their leadership that we must seek security,” Grandi said. “We are here to help but, in the end, as you know, the responsibility is with you and your colleagues in Juba and here.”

South Sudan’s civil war erupted out of political infighting in late 2013, just two years after South Sudan declared independence from Sudan and took over running its own affairs.

Since then, nearly 2 million people have fled fighting that the United Nations has said amounts in some areas to ethnic cleansing. There has been a string of failed ceasefires and peace accords.

KINGDOMS OF DEPENDENCY

Across the world, the number of displaced people had risen by 300,000 by the end of 2016 from a year earlier – though the pace of the increase had eased from past years, the UNHCR report said.

Of the total 65.6 million displaced, just over 40 million had remained in their countries while 22.5 million were registered as refugees abroad. There were another 2.8 million asylum seekers, the report said.

Globally, Syrians still represent the largest forcibly displaced population with 12 million refugees or internally displaced – some 65% of the population – by the end of 2016. Turkey hosted the most refugees with 2.9 million people.

UNHCR also sounded an alarm over another rapidly escalating crisis in Democratic Republic of Congo, where over 1 million people have been displaced internally and over 30,000 terms have crossed into Angola since August.

In South Sudan, Grandi said the combination of violence, ethnic strife, lack of development, climatic factors and international neglect was unmatched anywhere in the world.

“There are dead ends all around … I think we can still do something but we desperately need international pressure on the parties to go back to the table and be serious about peace,” he said.

Aid workers were struggling to raise funds, partly because of frustrations over the lack of progress in peace talks and partly because the scale of the problem was hidden, he said.

“They (South Sudan’s refugees) don’t arrive on the shores of Europe, or Australia or at the border between Mexico and the US Those are the places where refugees become visible and their voices are heard,” he said.

While Grandi said ensuring people were safe was important, he warned against setting up “kingdoms of dependency” like the sprawling camps for Somali refugees in Dadaab in northern Kenya that have become permanent settlements.

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COMMENTARY: South Sudan Has a lot to Offer the Trump Administration

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I am a native of Sudan and now of South Sudan, and I’ve held several positions inside and outside of the government of Sudan.

America has always had a special place in my heart.

Let me state clearly, that without the help and support of the United States and especially former president, George W. Bush, there would be no independent South Sudan today.

South Sudan split from Sudan and became a sovereign nation on July 9, 2011. We are a proud people and have much to contribute to the global community.

My president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, fought for many decades in the bush to help bring about our independence.

Whatever you think about Salva Kiir Mayardit, he is our president and our people put him in office. The South Sudanese never quite understood why President Barack Obama openly talked about circumventing the will of people, by coming up with a “different plan” for the future of the fledgling nation.

In 2015, Voice of America reported that Obama contemplated moving forward “with a different plan,” because he thought that our leaders were “incapable of creating” a lasting peace. Obama and the United Nations tried to enforce a strict August 17 deadline for signing the peace deal that year.

The New York Times also reported that Obama said that the world might have to come up with a “different plan” for South Sudan our young country’s feuding leaders failed to meet the August 17 deadline for a peace deal. President Kiir later signed the peace deal, even though he had reservations.

“President Obama and regional leaders threatened recently to expand international sanctions and impose an arms embargo if the rival factions did not sign a peace deal,” The New York Times reported.

I was thrilled to see the political change in the U.S. with the election of Donald Trump. Republicans have always been good to the continent of Africa and especially to South Sudan.

We are hoping to have much better relations with the Trump Administration than we had with the Obama Administration. We have a lot to offer the Trump administration and the American people.

We want America to know that we are open for business, investment, and a mutually beneficial relationship.

Yes, we have oil, but we also have great agricultural opportunities, as well. We have some of the most fertile land anywhere in the world.

Earlier this year, our finance minister pledged to double oil production to nearly 300,000 barrels per day. We also have some of the most fertile, pristine, virgin land in the world.

We can also be a staunch ally to the U.S. in the global fight against terrorism. We are neighbors of Kenya and Ethiopia. We are also a majority Christian nation.

So, what are our priorities relative to re-engaging with the American people and the Trump Administration?

The first priority would be for the U.S. to restore economic assistance to South Sudan, so that we can address the immediate issue of lack of food for our people. With the rainy season having started, food access has become even more difficult. Our people count on the generosity of the American people in this regard.

It is my sincere hope that American foreign policy under President Donald Trump will return to the old United States policy of support in friendship, coupled with respect for the sovereignty of states.

The government of South Sudan, under President Salva Kiir Mayardit and First Vice President Taban Deng Gai are doing their best to implement the peace agreement that was imposed on them by the outside world under the extreme pressure of President Obama. The president of South Sudan and the first vice president have not yet restored peace to their country, but they are trying very hard. They are enlisting the involvement of their entire population. Our leaders have initiated a national dialogue, involving a diverse group of community activists. Our president and first vice president need sympathy, encouragement and support, to achieve peace for their people.

It is my sincere hope, that the Trump Administration will give support for these new peace efforts in South Sudan, rather than holding the threat of regime change over our heads.

Bona Malwal is an academic visitor at St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.

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