June 2015: My Experience in the Field: Lifting off, the Lid on South Sudan War Crisis in Unity State (Reec)

The fighting that took place in Juba, South Sudan on the 15th of December 2013, triggered off worse crisis that would shake the foundation of an Independent South Sudan to its core. Someone would have been called a slimy little prevaricator if they had predicted the current result of the war. Neither the rebels, nor the government had expected the current situation would be arrived at. I remembered one Nuer friend who told me in 2012 (in Nairobi) that they (Nuer) were going to oust Kiir through a coup, and that if he was strong, it would taken them 24 hours to removed him from power. My answer to him was that they were not going to remove Kiir from power through military coup and that the result was going to be crisis that will affect the innocent civilians including him and me. He now lives in internally displaced camp under United Nation Mission protection in Juba.

According to my assessment of the situation in Unity State where I conducted two nutrition surveys from March to May 2015, things are heading beyond emergency level. The global acute malnutrition (GAM) in Abiemnom County is 26.5 %[22.4 – 31.195% CI] while that (GAM) of Panriang County stand at 23.4% [19.1↔28.3 95% CI]. Both results of the two surveys are above the World Health Organization’s emergency level (15%), which determines the intervention level. Hunger is so evidenced that you can see it on the faces and physique of the population in the area. The innocent population is suffering no matter which side of the conflict one support. Markets in areas under the government and rebels are empty as there are no goods coming in due to insecurity. Copying strategies being used are getting depleted as the population they support is larger and some of them (copying strategies) are seasonal. What are coping strategies? Morbidity rates among under five children are high, which support the results of high rates of malnutrition in the state. Most households are going bankrupt due to economic crisis caused by the war. American dollar which used to change at 2 South Sudanese pounds (SSP) in 2008 is now changing at 12.2SSP (today’s black market rate). Prices are skyrocketing all over the country. Most business companies are leaving the country on a monthly basis as they face collapse due to scarcity of dollar in the market.

To add to the already horrible crisis, continued fighting is impeding intervention by humanitarian organizations as witnessed recently in Unity State where United Nations Agencies were told not to leave their camp in the State Capital (Bentiu). Women and children have been displaced by the war and at the mercy of hunger and diseases in the bushes where they are hiding. Some of them are alleged to have been raped and children recruited into opposing forces to fight for them.

In conclusion, the population on both sides is yearning for peace but politicians are blocking it as the talks in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, have turned out to be competition for positions in the coming Interim Government of National Unity. In the next page are photos of children from Panriang County, who suffered from oedema (kwashiorkor) and marasmus. Oedema is a worse level of malnutrition.

All were referred to nutrition centre of CARE International for treatment. They were treated successfully and discharged back to their homes. CARE International, is an American Organization supporting health and nutrition program in the area.

 

This child suffered from oedema

 

This child is suffering from marasmus

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