Years of war have left the world’s newest country in a fragile state.
As South Sudan gets ready to mark the fifth anniversary of its independence, the consequences of a long-running civil war leave little for the country to celebrate.
Few, if any, of South Sudan’s citizens have been left untouched by the fighting, which has now dragged on for more than three years, despite the signing of a peace agreement in August 2015. Food, clean water, and decent sanitation are all in short supply or prohibitively expensive, and a third of the population is severely hungry. One in three schools has been damaged, destroyed or occupied, impeding the education of more than 900,000 children. Only 2 percent of the roads are paved, and inflation is approaching 300 percent.
For more than 2.4 million people who remain displaced—1.61 million inside South Sudan and 830,000 who have fled as refugees to other countries—another national birthday may remind them more of dashed dreams than of hope for the future.
Yet, as photographer Robert Fogarty has documented for this fifth anniversary, the people of South Sudan stand determined in their longing for peace. Produced for Oxfam in partnership with Dear World, a video about the photo project amplifies that longing—making it urgent for all of us—as South Sudanese share their stories of love and loss.
“I hope that my children will grow up in peace, because that’s what they need for them to have a better life than this one,” says a woman in the video.
“During the conflict, most of our friends have died,” says another.
“We cry for peace,” is the message written on the palms of two women as they face the camera solemnly. And another, holding a child in her arms and looking deeply into the lens, offers this simple message: “I need you back.”
Since the start of the crisis in December 2013, Oxfam has helped nearly 860,000 people with a variety of emergency assistance including food, clean water, and sanitation facilities. Our longer-term development programs, often carried out through South Sudanese partners, has helped 350,000 people with improved agriculture and peace-building and reconciliation initiatives. In addition, we have helped more than 100,000 South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia and 145,000 in Uganda.
Oxfam is calling for all fighting to stop immediately and for the 2015 peace agreement to be respected and fully implemented. One man from Nyal said it best: “I can’t hope but I know what I want – to go home. I want everyone to be able to go back home, and to farm, harvest and live. I do not want to hear another gunshot.”
As long as the fighting continues, the humanitarian situation in South Sudan will only get worse. Tell President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and National Security Advisor Rice: Push for a comprehensive arms embargo on South Sudan.