South Sudan: Lifesaving Action Amidst the Chaos

Mother and Child in Madhuk, South Sudan. Photo by C. Duroseau

As we reported last month, violence spread rapidly in South Sudan’s capital city of Juba, beginning on December 15th.

Ensuring Humanitarian Safety

Heavy fighting was reported near the airport, and it was shut down. At that point, Action Against Hunger put our staff in what we in the humanitarian field call “hibernation mode,” meaning all staff were to remain in their homes and not travel. We also put our field teams on alert, as violence was spreading throughout the country, and limited our activities to those involving lifesaving nutrition interventions. Over the next week, the situation deteriorated further. We slowly started moving our field staff, and evacuating our international staff out of the country. On December 23rd, just before Christmas, the last group of 13 staff members were moved to safety.

Key Prioirites: Nutrition, Security, Efficiency & More

We quickly set up remote management in Nairobi, Kenya. Key program personnel continued to work under the leadership of our Emergency Operations Specialist, focusing on:

  • Continuing our nutrition programs for more than 3,000 children currently receiving lifesaving support in South Sudan’s Warrap and Northern Bahr el Gazal states;
  • Providing remote technical support for national managers in Warrap and Northern Bahr el Gazal;
  • Establishing communications with all relevant partners including donors and United Nations counterparts to add to our understanding of needs on the ground;
  • Undertaking the necessary security assessments and planning our return to Juba by the new year; and
  • Organizing a more efficient mission structure to manage our current lifesaving programs and broaden our scope to respond to the larger crisis.

Next Steps

The current humanitarian response is still quite limited, impinged by the continuation of widespread fighting. We are concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation and limited access, preventing agencies from reaching tens of thousands of displaced South Sudanese citizens. We continue to monitor the situation in Warrap state, to support the flow of displaced people from the frontlines in Unity state.

The positive news is that the current security situation in our own operational areas is reported to be normal. We thank our very committed and capable national teams for managing operations in the absence of international staff, and for continuing to deliver lifesaving support to children in their communities. And we look forward to returning to Juba in short order.

We are already in discussions with all humanitarian actors in the area to define the scope of our longer-term response and the role we can play as soon as the security situation becomes more tenable in all parts of the country. Stay tuned here for further updates.

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