South Sudan (MNN) — Despite an effort at peace talks, violence continues to spread throughout South Sudan. Fleeing before the troops are the civilians, now numbering nearly 2500 a day, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Not all of them make it to safety. Last week, the International Crisis Group released a report that estimated the number of dead from the conflict at 10,000, a major discrepancy from the UN’s December estimate of 1,000. It also raised questions about the cause of the instability, despite the South Sudan’s insistence that a coup attempt was responsible for the conflagration.
Wayne DeJong is the director of International Disaster Response for World Renew. The ministry has an established base in Yei, Central Equatoria. He says, “We’re in a good position to respond to the needs of displaced people who have moved from other areas into Juba and further south. So, we’re looking at responding with non-food items like cooking utensils, hygiene kits, and so on.”
More than 200,000 people have been displaced inside South Sudan, including about 60,000 taking shelter at United Nations compounds. DeJong adds that “32,000 people have sought refuge in neighboring countries: about 70% in Uganda, also in Kenya and Ethiopia, so there’s a lot of people on the move.”
There’s concern that the violence will continue to spread unchecked. World Renew staff is gearing up their response, says DeJong. “There’s an incredible amount of uncertainty and huge levels of need which World Renew and many other organizations are seeking to address through the ACT Alliance and the Integra Alliance.”
The ministry has been working in Yei River County in the southern tip of South Sudan for the past three years. Aside from two Christian radio stations, World Renew hopes to help the rural population increase their farming skills and work together to improve agricultural production so that families can meet their needs, and so that food can be sold both within South Sudan and exported to neighboring countries.
With a network already in place, it means their response can be efficient. “We are developing a proposal to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank which would seek to address the food assistance needs of refugees in northern Uganda in the Gulu area, through our partner: the Church of Uganda, diocese of northern Uganda.” Integral to this vision is the embodiment of Christ’s good news, he adds. “As Christian NGOs, this is an opportunity for us to work together and coordinate our efforts to reach as many people as possible in the name of Christ.”
The last hope for unity and peace is flickering, especially in light of the fact that on the ninth anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (which created the framework for South Sudan’s independence from Sudan), there was deadly fighting over it. It was also the third anniversary of the referendum in which people voted to create their own nation, South Sudan.
The Church is coming together to encourage reconciliation. They’re trying to restore the hope and vision that came with the triumph of becoming South Sudan.
DeJong says their team leaders need prayer for wisdom and safety in the days ahead. Also, “Pray for the peace negotiations that are underway in Ethiopia. We hope that those will need soon with a positive result. Pray also for NGO workers all over the country who are seeking to respond to the high level of need.”