South Sudan a Forgotten War: Tim Costello

Image Credit: World Vision Australia.

FOLLOWING days of heavy artillery landing on both sides of the Nile, World Vision South Sudan and partners have been forced to relocate staff and suspend lifesaving humanitarian operations in Wau Shilluk, in the upper Nile region located of South Sudan. The situation remains tense.

World Vision Chief Advocate Tim Costello is in the South Sudan capital, Juba. He met with the Moderator of South Sudan Churches, Reverend Peter Gai Lual, and Anglican Bishop Enoch Tombe Stephen in South Sudan today, in an urgent bid to find solutions to a civil war that has driven more than 3 million people from their homes over the past four years, and is undermining gains made in food security for the young country.

“The Church may be the best hope to broker peace and end bloodshed in the forgotten war of South Sudan,” Mr Costello said today, as the aid agency was forced to withdraw from areas of heavy fighting.

“We hope the Church can lead grassroots reconciliation and advocacy, as neither the Government nor Opposition is trusted. It’s a terrible day when we are forced to relocate lifesaving operations due to conflict,” Mr Costello said. “The UN has warned that South Sudan’s crisis could easily tip into mass atrocities. We must do everything we can to broker peace before there’s more tragedy.”

World Vision’s Emergency Response team operating in Wau Shilluk, on the western bank of the Nile river in the Greater Upper Nile Region, has safely relocated to Kodok, about 50 km north of Wau Shilluk.

According to World Vision South Sudan’s National Director, Perry Mansfield, “The increased violence in Wau Shilluk and surrounding areas has forced World Vision and partners to make the difficult decision to temporarily relocate staff from Wau Shilluk and suspend life-saving interventions in the area. However, our staff based in Malakal are still present and operational to the extent that the situation allows.”

Among other activities, World Vision South Sudan has been providing lifesaving food assistance, health, nutrition, and water and sanitation services (WASH) to over 20,000 internally displaced individuals (IDP) in Wau Shilluk; with tens of thousands additional civilians at risk if the violence continues and spreads toward the Malakal Protection of Civilian Site (PoC). Recent violence north of Kodok in Renk is an additional concern that World Vision teams and the Humanitarian community teams are monitoring.

“Since the onset of the civil war in South Sudan that began in December 2013, humanitarian needs have continued to increase with 4.6 million individuals experiencing severe food insecurity across the country. If the situation remains unchanged, we expect the needs of the children, families and communities of South Sudan to continue to deepen and spread across the country.” Mr Mansfield said.

According to recent analysis on the ground, a record 5 million individuals will be severely food insecure across the country by June 2017 if the situation remains unchanged.

Despite the concerning deterioration in the area, however Mansfield highlighted his appreciation that “teams on the ground were prepared and able to successfully execute relocation operations efficiently and effectively, resulting the overall safety of World Vision other humanitarian partners staff.”

However, Mansfield also wanted to emphasize that World Vision staff were eager to return as soon as the situation was deemed safe to carry out operations in Wau Shilluk.