South Sudan (MNN) — Recent fighting in South Sudan has left about 500 people dead, and the death toll could rise, warned the country’s government. Bodies are still being found in forests, and many of those who were wounded are dying in hospitals.
United Nations officials raised alarm in the days following a failed coup attempt, as continued violence not only displaced 15,000-20,000, but also fed concerns that the fledgling nation could topple back into civil war.
Despite a dusk-to-dawn curfew, the fighting has highlighted the bitter fault lines in the country. The president and his former vice president hail from different ethnic groups and fought on different sides during Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war (Dinka and Nuer). There are also oil rights to consider and religious alliances.
Add to that new clashes between rival army factions, and there’s fear that the violence is spreading beyond Juba into Jonglei state. What’s more, there’s evidence that tensions were rising in other states.
Kids Alive International Vice President of Operations Jed Hamoud oversees the Kids Alive ministries in the Middle East and Africa. Of their work in South Sudan, he says for now, everyone is safe. “I’ve only been able to contact him once because the communications–phone network, internet, all of that–is pretty much unsupported–D-grade at this time, so the communication is poor.”
Wau is nearly 18 hours away from Juba. However, if the violence splits the nation along tribal lines again, no place is safe. Even in the remotest part of the village, says Hamoud, “The word gets around. They know there’s conflict. When I talked to Frances, our national director in Wau, he said the situation is very tense.”
Hamoud goes on to explain that in Wau, “We have residential children, about 20 children in residential care, and then we have about 20 community children that we care, for as well.” Although violence hasn’t hit them directly, it has caused a problem. “With the airport closed, with the banks closed, the only way to get between Juba and Wau is flying. There are no roads that take you there. We are concerned about our ministry being able to reach their bank to get the funding they need to buy the food and the needs to take care of the children.”
Already on the edge of survival, having no food isn’t an option. Fortunately, there is history with the community. “What we have done is rely upon community people to provide us with food we need: the grocers there, the shopkeepers, and so on. When we have our hands on our resources, we pay them.”
Hamoud says their focus is on the entire child. Their team focuses on meeting the physical, emotional, AND spiritual needs of each child through Christ-centered care, education, and ministry. With the safety concerns mounting, the team takes the opportunity to prepare the kids. “In the morning, we have devotions with the children, and we have devotions in the evening with the children. A lot of those things get talked about.”
Christian caregivers in their Children’s Homes and community programs nurture and encourage these children to become faithful followers of Jesus that give hope to their community. Hope brings change, says Hamoud. “We usually try to give the message of peace, love, reconciliation. We do all that we can to teach the kids those biblical principles.”
This situation isn’t the first crisis for Kids Alive in South Sudan, and it may not be the last. Hamoud says, ”We know that it is the power of prayer that has sustained us all those years. We covet the prayers of everybody for the safety for our children, for the wisdom of our leadership.”
1. For the current situation to be resolved and that the violence would cease with no further loss of life.
2. For the safety of the children at the home in Wau and that they would know God’s peace at this turbulent time.
3. For the Director and staff, that they would make wise decisions and would continue to be able to meet the needs of the children.