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OXFAMCloseup, Spring 2015

Guardians of the Mekong

In the coming weeks, you may begin to hear a lot about South Sudan, a new nation now in the grip of a terrible food crisis. I was there just a few weeks ago meeting with some of the 1.5 million displaced people who are struggling to survive, most of them outside the relative security of camps protected by UN peacekeepers. Conflict that erupted one and a half years ago has driven countless families from their homes, triggering widespread hunger as people are unable to work their fields or get to their jobs.

Food prices are skyrocketing: in some places, such as Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei states, the price of some grains has exploded by 300 percent. Already, one in three South Sudanese children is malnourished, and the situation is likely to worsen. Food experts are predicting that by June, 3.5 million people in this country will be facing severe hunger.

Numbers that big are hard to imagine, but the frightening reality each person faces is not: “There is no employment here and no money,” Nyabiel Machar told Voice of America recently. “We get very little support, so I will survive on what I can get from the forest: wild fruit and leaves.”

Unlike other crises brought on by events beyond our control, such as droughts or floods, this one is man-made, and we have a collective responsibility to act now.

Oxfam is helping more than 480,000 South Sudanese with clean water, sanitation services, food, fuel, and income support. But we need you to stand with us as we continue to provide emergency assistance while urging the US government to take a more active role in ending the fighting and laying the groundwork for a lasting peace.

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