Imminent rains will jeopardize response to Sudans conflict, aid agencies warn

By Ben Grossman-Cohen

Seasonal rains due in Sudan and South Sudan will exacerbate already dire conditions in refugee camps, restrict travel and access, and heighten the risk of disease, a group of leading humanitarian agencies warned today. The rains, which in some places have already started, will make many roads impassable, trapping people in unstable areas and deepening the current hunger crisis.

Sustained, broad access for aid provision, freedom of movement for civilians, and the opportunity to plant this year’s crops are vital to save lives and will only be fully possible with a cessation of hostilities within and between the two countries.

Jon Cunliffe, South Sudan Country Director for Save the Children: “A toxic combination of conflict, rising food and fuel prices, and severe cash shortages is having a devastating effect on the civilian population in both countries. With the rains on the way the situation could not be more critical. We urgently need the fighting to stop so that we can get access and children can be protected from violence, deprivation, displacement and recruitment.”

In Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, reports suggest continued instability means that some families have not yet planted their seeds, which could potentially lead to severe food shortages later in the year. The insecurity also means children are not going to school. Access to all areas is needed urgently before the rains make getting assistance to communities even harder.

The conflict and hunger in South Kordofan and Blue Nile are driving record numbers of people across the border, with an estimated 151,000 refugees from these states in Ethiopia and South Sudan. In May, in a single day, 700 people arrived at Yida camp in South Sudan’s Unity State. This compares to an average of 287 a day in April, and 83 in February and March. Recent arrivals take the total number in Yida to nearly 30,000, increasing the pressure on agencies already struggling to cope with water stress, sanitation, violence, reproductive health and child protection.

Ibrahim Kallo, emergency field coordinator for the International Rescue Committee in Yida said: “Those arriving in the camp in recent weeks are visibly exhausted and malnourished after walking for four or five days with little food or water, and some children show signs of severe malnutrition. Women are being raped and assaulted, both on the journey and once they arrive. Fear of hunger is likely to trigger a further wave of displacement in the coming weeks, as people try to get out before the rains make the trek across the border more arduous.”

In Jamam Camp in South Sudan’s Upper Nile agencies are struggling to provide 37,000 refugees with even as little as five litres of water per person per day, far less than emergency standards. Despite hydrological surveys and many attempts to drill new boreholes no sustainable new water sources have been found and thousands of refugees will need to be moved. The rains will make things harder – potentially causing flooding and spreading disease.

Agencies are also concerned that supply routes to camps could be cut off, restricting their ability to bring in medical and other supplies, as well as making it harder to conduct medical evacuations. Instability in Unity state has already led some agencies to evacuate staff from Bentiu and consider direct flights from Juba to the camps, which would be expensive and cause delays.

"After more than ten months of fighting, with no sign of peace, we're on the path from crisis to catastrophe. The coming rains could make life for refugees unbearable and bring the threat of waterborne disease. The world needs to wake up to the true cost of conflict for people who have already suffered so many years of war," Oxfam's Deputy Country Director for South Sudan, Johnson Byamukama said.

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Agencies signing the release: Christian Aid, International Rescue Committee, Oxfam, Refugees International, Save the Children

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