Situation in South Sudan not improving

Soldiers with the People's Liberation Army patrol the camp of Lalo following heavy fighting in late October near Malakal, South Sudan. (CNS photo / Jok Solomon, Reuters)

In April, we wrote that the situation in South Sudan, after more than two years of war, was not getting better, but somehow getting even worse.

The scattered fighting between the government and rebels appeared to be headed toward a full-blown civil war, and — even more frightening — was "inching toward genocide."

And then, as we reported in July, though an uneasy peace appeared to be holding the worst at bay, things somehow continued to deteriorate. Yet even then, there were many — often sisters — who continued to work for peace and to heal the wounds of a broken people.

And today? The situation sounds largely the same: Aljazeera.com reports that Adama Dieng, the United Nations' special adviser on the prevention of genocide, visited South Sudan last week and came back with grim news.

"I saw all the signs that ethnic hatred and targeting of civilians could evolve into genocide if something is not done now to stop it," Dieng told the U.N. Security Council. "There is a strong risk of violence escalating along ethnic lines with a potential for genocide. I do not say that lightly."

The Associated Press, meanwhile, reports that the director of U.N. humanitarian operations, John Ging, said the nation appears to be falling apart.

"Of the three countries I visited, South Sudan is the one that causes the most alarm in terms of the trajectory the country is on," Ging said. "In every element of the functioning of the country you are seeing a deterioration."

How bad is it? Reliefweb reports that as of October, there were 1.8 million displaced people in South Sudan — people who have fled the fighting, which has included "large scale extra-judicial killings, sexual violence, abductions and enforced disappearances, forced displacement, looting, livestock-raiding and the burning of houses," according to the U.N. Another 1.1 million people have fled to neighboring countries as refugees.

Reliefweb says 6.1 million people in South Sudan are in need, but only 3.6 million have been helped; relief efforts have only 57 percent of the funding needed. Not surprisingly, disease has followed: Malaria, measles, cholera and kala azar — a parasitic killer second only to malaria — which is nearly always fatal if untreated.

So, the hope?

Solidarity With South Sudan continues to work to bring peace to the world's youngest nation, educating teachers, creating a sustainable agriculture project and opening the Good Shepherd Peace Center for human, pastoral and spiritual formation, peace building and trauma healing for South Sudanese and church personnel.

The staff of the center, officials say, is a living example of unity within diversity, a lesson sorely needed in South Sudan: a South Sudanese Comboni Priest, two members of Solidarity with South Sudan — a Vincentian priest from the Philippines, and a Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from the USA — plus a Jesuit priest from Rwanda and a St. Martin De Porres Brother from Uganda.

And in other good news, supporting Solidarity With South Sudan has gotten easier: Officials announced the creation of Friends in Solidarity, a 501(c)3 to support the Sudan-based NGO.

Remember, links, tips and accounts of the response to any crisis anywhere in the world are always welcome at dstockman@ncronline.org.

[Dan Stockman is national correspondent for Global Sisters Report. Follow him on Twitter @DanStockman or on Facebook.]

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