Civil war takes its toll on the children in South Sudan

By September 25, 2014
(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/UK Department for International Development)

(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/UK Department for International Development)

South Sudan (MNN) — The crisis in South Sudan is being drowned out by coverage of airstrikes in Syria, ISIS advances, the conflict in Gaza, and the Ebola outbreak.

Here is the upshot: South Sudan is in trouble. Matt Parker of Kids Alive International explains, “South Sudan is already one of the poorest countries in the world. There’s already a lack of facilities and infrastructure in the country.” When you add war and a food shortage, you get a manmade disaster. The conflict between the government and the rebel group has displaced nearly two million people.  “There’s talk of around 50,000 children really being at-risk of starvation over the coming months, so it’s a very serious issue. One of the problems was because of the fighting, farmers were not able to get out into their fields.” Plus, food and fuel still available have nearly doubled in cost in some areas.

Some of the worst-hit areas are also the hardest to reach because they’re remote and have few roads to get there. It’s made worse because the government reportedly banned foreigners, including aid workers, and Non-Government Organizations.

Once this crisis re-emerges on the international scene, it could be in the form of a famine, warns the United Nations. “The fact that people have been unable to plant crops, the fact that more than 1.8 million people have been displaced as a result of the fighting,” says Parker, “has added to this [problem] very significantly.”

Peace talks resumed 21 September in Ethiopia, even as mop-up operations continued in Unity state from last week’s clashes. Negotiations have been on hold since late August, when President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar inked the fourth “peace” deal in nine months. This time, they agreed to forge a unity government by October 9. Will it work? Parker hopes so. “There needs to be real accountability. There needs to be efforts made to address corruption, which is rife, even if the unity government comes into place.”

(Photo courtesy Kids Alive International)

(Photo courtesy Kids Alive International)

As families move to get away from the fighting, there’s a corresponding rise in the number of street children, observes child advocates. Kids Alive’s focus is on the entire child. Their work in Wau hasn’t been disrupted, even though there have been a couple of violent outbursts. While that’s good news, Parker says their staff is keeping a close eye on things. “There’s been a lot of concern, a lot of fear in the area, and the real risk that fighting could break out at any time.”

The contingency plan for Kids Alive is to continue their work. Some of the street children are in their Children’s Homes, and others are coming to ministry sites. The influx means growth. Parker notes, “Over the next few months, we’ll be doing some construction work so that we can build more facilities and…get more children off the streets. We’re concerned. We’re monitoring the situation very carefully.”

(Photo courtesy Kids Alive International)

(Photo courtesy Kids Alive International)

Kids Alive staff focus on meeting the physical, emotional, AND spiritual needs of each child. “We want to see the kids that we work with come to know Jesus in their lives. We want to see them discipled, we want to see them serving Him. We want to see these kids really making an impact for Christ in their communities.”

However, rising costs, growing communities, and fewer dollars means they have to ask for help. Funds now help lay the groundwork for future later. “It’s a core part of everything that we do: teaching these kids the Gospel message, teaching them the hope that they have in Christ, and helping them to grow in that faith.”

As Kids Alive continues their work among street kids and in the communities, Parker asks: “Pray that we would be successful in helping kids break the cycle of poverty, get off the streets, have a loving home, have a promising future, and come to Jesus Christ in their lives.”

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