South Sudan


3.7 million in South Sudan face severe hunger crisis | 

Woman sits with food aid, in the north of South Sudan.
Woman sits with food aid, in the north of South Sudan.

Hunger looms over South Sudan. World leaders have spent the past few weeks trying to raise the alarm to garner enough public attention and funding to prevent a hunger crisis.

Some 7 million people are at risk of food insecurity. The UN launched a $230 million appeal in early April to respond to the problem. Then there are the 3.7 million people, nearly one out of every three people in South Sudan, that are at severe risk of hunger.

Fighting in South Sudan since December is responsible for displacing more than 1 million people from their homes. The upcoming rainy season is a vital time for food security because it is when crops are usually planted. It is also the period when food stocks from the previous harvest season begin to run out.

The ongoing fighting and instability has disrupted the country, meaning that some will miss the planting season due to a lack of resources or other factors. A missed or poor planting season would put people already struggling at greater risk, especially young children.

UNICEF warned that as many as 50,000 children could die if the international response in South Sudan does not gain the necessary support. A total of $1.27 billion is necessary to respond to the totality of the crisis in South Sudan, says the UN. Only 36% of the funding has been raised so far. The pleas to act now to prevent hunger hope to revive funding for the response.

The US, EU and UN rushed to sign a call to action for the country in Washington over the weekend. Representatives from the three groups gathered to pledge $80 million for South Sudan. That is in addition to the $100 million that was pledged in the prior week. The money will be used to reach the nearly 5 million people who need assistance because of the ongoing crisis in South Sudan.

“We know that if we work together we can deal with this challenge,” said UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, at the signing. “But we also know that without improved and significant resourcing now, we face a situation next year where South Sudan is in an even worse situation than it is right now.”

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Attacks on hospitals hamper South Sudan humanitarian response | 

South Sudanese refugees in Uganda.
South Sudanese refugees in Uganda.

The ongoing fighting in South Sudan continues to put the people living in the country at risk, as well as the people trying to provide humanitarian assistance. Its impact has extended beyond the young country’s borders and into neighboring Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

Hospitals run by the medical NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have experienced attacks and evidence of patients murdered in their hospital beds. The challenge to provide medical aid coupled with insecurity and poor living conditions in camp are making for a worrying combination says the group.

“This lack of respect for medical care has deprived people lifesaving care at a time they need it most,” said Chris Lockyear, MSF’s operations manager for South Sudan, in a press call last week.

Equally concerning is what MSF sees as a lack of respect for humanitarian actors and medical facilities. On February 22, the MSF team working at the Malakal teaching hospital discovered fourteen dead bodies. The evidence suggested that they were shot dead in their hospital beds, said Lockyear. A similar report from Bor in December cited patients killed in their beds.

In another incident earlier this year, a team working in Unity State were forced to evacuate when fighting began to affect the hospital, leaving thousands of people with no access to medical care. MSF staff are back working at the hospital, but the situation remains tenuous.

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Five neglected stories that might be a bigger deal than Ukraine | 

A quick look at the top ten stories on Google News this morning maintains the stand-off in Ukraine high on the list, of course, along with the missing Malaysian airplane and, well something about Justin Bieber, Tiger Woods and Oscar Pistorius’ trial for murder. It’s good to see that at least a third of the top stories (according to Google anyway) are not about celebrities or sports.

But what’s not so good to see is that some fairly significant stories have been shoved off the media’s radar screen. Sure, it’s important to pay attention to what Russia is trying to do in Ukraine. But the idea that the conflict there is more important than conflicts in other parts of the world is highly debatable.

We are not entering a new Cold War, and the likelihood of Western intervention in Ukraine is nil. Such talk neglects the reality of today’s geopolitics. American politicians’ moral outrage at Russia seems odd outside of the U.S. given our own government’s extensive history of invading even distant sovereign countries (Iraq, Grenada, Vietnam, much of Latin America….) based on ‘national interests.’ At least Ukraine used to be part of Russia.

Here are five stories Humanosphere thinks are maybe as important as the Ukraine story:

South Africa’s government accuses Rwandan government of sending a hit squad

Syrian government is now starving its citizens to death

Honduras is still the ‘murder capital of the world’

Genocide brewing in Central African Republic

US is supporting Uganda’s military incursion in South Sudan

A different take on the unraveling of South Sudan | 

 A South Sudanese government soldier inspects the body of a dead woman lying the street in Bor, Jonglei State, South Sudan.
A South Sudanese government soldier inspects the body of a dead woman lying the street in Bor, Jonglei State, South Sudan.

South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, may be unraveling and one of the few journalists actually on the ground there says the media’s characterization of the conflict – usually done remotely, by telephone – is bit one-sided, if not off-target completely.

Robert Young Pelton
Robert Young Pelton
Machot Lat Thiep
Machot Lat Thiep

“We’ve spent the last few days with Riek Machar and the so-called rebel forces,” journalist and author Robert Young Pelton said to Humanosphere by telephone today.

As we reported in late January, Pelton and a Seattle man, a Costco supervisor and former Sudan Lost Boy named Machot Thiep, are in South Sudan partly to truth-check the standard narrative. “What we’re seeing and learning is very contradictory to the official line.” Continue reading

Seattle man, former Sudan lost boy, joins hunt for Joseph Kony | 

South Sudan warrior
Flickr, babasteve

Machot Lat Thiep is a front line supervisor at the north Seattle Costco store, a graduate of the University of Washington and a 32-year-old family man with a wife and three young sons. No, that is not him pictured above. But he’s quite familiar with that look.

Machot Lat Thiep
Machot Lat Thiep

Many years ago, Thiep was one of the Sudan’s famous ‘lost boys’ who spent years fleeing conflict, struggling to survive and bouncing between refugee camps in East Africa. In 1995, he was able to emigrate to the United States as part of a United Nations’ resettlement program and was sent to Seattle as a foster child – which was also quite difficult at times, at least until he ended up with a family that actually cared for him.

So why, with all that trouble behind him, a good job and a young family, would Thiep decide to join up with a fellow known for getting himself into dangerous places and go after the infamous African warlord Joseph Kony?

“I want to help people understand what’s going on with my people, why they are being killed,” Thiep said. One of the less appreciated angles on what is happening currently in the newly conflicted South Sudan, he said, is the Ugandan military’s attacks on tribal communities that are judged unfriendly to the current besieged president of the country.

“The Ugandan military doesn’t do anything without consulting the Americans,” Thiep contended. “Why are they bombing my people? Why are they even in South Sudan?” Continue reading

Why I am not donating to the most effective charity | 

GiveDirectly has the strongest case of any organization for a donation. It works and has the evidence to back up the claim.

Knowing this, I did not give to them this year.

I, like many other Americans, wait until the end of the year to do my charitable giving. As a person who covers the humanitarian sector I read a lot of organization’s reports, pitches and research studies.

Armed with this knowledge, it would seem that choosing where and how to give is easy. It is not. I tend to worry too much that it will be wasted. I debated sharing where I am giving this year and justifying my decision.

Ultimately I decided to write this because of my belief in the importance of transparency. I should disclose any possible conflicts of interest with my reporting. I do not think that my decision constitutes any conflict going forward, but erring on the side of transparency makes the most sense to me.

This happens to be a moment where major humanitarian emergencies (Philippines, Syria, Central African Republic) require a lot of money and when better information on impacts of programs make it easier to know what is the most effective way to give. Continue reading

Violence Spreads, Thousands Flee in South Sudan | 

South Sudanese line outside of the UN Mission in Juba.
South Sudanese line outside of the UN Mission in Juba.

A sudden eruption of fighting in South Sudan’s capital city of Juba sent as many as 20,000 people to seek refuge at the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) base in Juba.

Civilians were caught in the cross fire between battling members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the national army. The government of South Sudan estimates that 500 people have been killed and another 800 injured due to the fighting. Gunfire continued into the night in Juba, but subsided by today.

Hospitals in the city are struggling under the sudden inundation of patients. The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is providing whatever support it can to ensure that people receive treatment.

“We know there are more people who need care, but they are having difficulty reaching healthcare facilities because of the security situation and the lack of available transportation,” said Felicity Gapes of the Red Cross. Continue reading

UNICEF’s digital tool that reunites families | 


Sudden humanitarian disasters can separate families. The trauma is then compounded further by the difficulty in reuniting family members. That problem may be one of the past.

A new UNICEF tool provides a quick way to bring families back together. The digital registration tool called Rapid Family Tracing and Reunification (RapidFTR) helps stranded children reunite with their families.

UNICEF, Save the Children and the Uganda Red Cross are using RapidFTR for Congolese families displaced in Uganda.

“Before RapidFTR, we would have to use paper and fill out lots of forms to get all the details,” said Child Protection Officer of Save the Children Fatuma Arinaitwe. “This took a lot of time, and then we would go around with a list of names and ask people if they knew these children.” Continue reading