The hardened, dry earth, parched for rain, cracks open as if calling out for relief from the drought now into its third year. The earth adds its cry to the cries of people, calling out for peace and for relief from the civil war now into its fourth year. The effects of the drought combined with the pressures and violence of the war have hampered the ability of the Sudanese people to raise livestock, farm vegetables or harvest grains. The result has been an extreme food shortage, officially declared a famine by the World Food Program last month.
An estimated 5.5 million people-nearly half of South Sudan's population-will face life-threatening hunger this year and, in some regions of the country, one in three children are facing acute malnutrition. Additionally, these famine conditions pose serious medical challenges, including a greater risk for infection among an already vulnerable population.
Week of Compassion is responding to the food crisis through our partners: ACT Alliance and IMA World Health.
IMA World Health is working to provide needed medical and health services. Having been working with communities and local and international groups in the area since 2008, IMA World Health has built strong local relationships that are enabling us to respond effectively. Bout Diang, a Sudanese community organizer who has worked for many years with IMA World Health shares: "Without the support they are giving us, I doubt if we would be receiving any medical care." He also feels that the IMA workers are emotionally supportive. "When we sit with IMA staff, they always tell us that one day things will be ok. We feel emotionally better and stronger to bear the challenges we are facing."
Through our partners at ACT Alliance, Week of Compassion is helping provide seeds, tools, and other supports to over 250,000 people across South Sudan. We recognize, however, that much more is needed. "We are extremely concerned about the situation," says Lokiru Yohana, a regional program coordinator working in the ACT Alliance. "We hear of fighting in the Greater Upper Nile Region, Unity and Jonglei state, even the once peaceful and stable Greater Equatoria region, which serves as the main bread basket of the country."
Though these are serious threats and challenges, a positive difference can be made for the people of South Sudan. International organizations, including the United Nations, are coming together to respond. Stephen O'Brien, UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said, "To be clear, we can avert a famine." But, it will take us all, "We're ready despite incredible risk and danger ... but we need the world to respond now."
In times like these, we are called to use our resources to serve those in need. We are not powerless to make a difference, even save lives, when we work together and share the resources that we have.