A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
World’s attention elsewhere while needs not being met in Africa’s worse disaster
On the 3rd anniversary of South Sudan’s independence, Oxfam has warned that appeals to fund the aid effort are failing as the country’s humanitarian crisis is spiralling out of control with malnutrition and sickness rising and an ever increasing number of people forced to flee their homes.
South Sudan is currently Africa’s worst crisis with nearly 4 million – a third of the country’s population - at risk of severe hunger and an aid effort that has only so far reached half of those in need. The UN has warned that if the aid effort does not increase 50,000 children could die from malnutrition. Since the current crisis began in December last year fighting has forced 1.5 million people from their homes and numbers continuing to rise.
Appeals for money for the aid effort are failing. The UN’s $1.8bn appeal is so far less than half funded. Oxfam’s own appeal for funds has only raised a half of the $30.35m it needs.
Urgent need for funds
“The world’s attention is elsewhere as Africa’s worst humanitarian catastrophe descends into more misery. We will be staring into the abyss and fail to avert a famine if funds do not start arriving soon to help the people of South Sudan at risk of starvation, disease and violence. More than six months into this crisis the aid effort is stumbling and will not cope without a timely injection of funds,” said Oxfam's Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima.
Malnutrition and cholera
In the three most affected areas of South Sudan – Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei – child malnutrition rates are rising. Thousands of people, many malnourished, have arrived at the UN camp in Bentiu, Unity State, in the last few weeks and over a six week period 100 children have died in the camp. In the UN camp in Malakal, Upper Nile, and Bor, Jonglei, people are living in atrocious conditions and are walking knee deep in mud and water.
The stagnant water from the seasonal heavy rains increases the risk of disease. A cholera outbreak began in the capital Juba mid-April and though it has been contained there are fears that it could spread to other areas. Fighting in Upper Nile is seriously hampering the aid effort and in Jonglei over 400,000 have been force to flee their homes.
Refugees weak and exhausted
Refugees who have managed to cross into neighboring countries are arriving weak and exhausted. Over 158,000 refugees have arrived in Ethiopia. At hospitals run by Medecins Sans Frontieres one in ten children admitted are dying. Another 117,000 refugees have arrived in Uganda, 85,000 in Sudan and nearly 40,000 in Kenya.
Oxfam has so far helped over 260,000 people in South Sudan with food, clean water, sanitation and cash. In Ethiopia Oxfam is helping set up water and sanitation in refugee camps and In Uganda it has helped nearly 45,000 people.
Peace talks need resume
“This is a not a crisis caused by drought or flood. It is a political crisis turned violent. The people of South Sudan can only put their lives back together once the fighting ends. While peace talks remain stalled there will be little hope of a swift end to the conflict without sustained pressure on all parties to come to a peaceful resolution. That peace will only last if it meets the needs of all South Sudan’s people.
“In the meantime civilians caught up in this crisis not of their making will need generous international help to avert a famine and further suffering. For the sake of our common humanity we cannot look away at this time of crisis,” said Oxfam's Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima.