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20 January 2014

Prayers for peace as South Sudan crisis deteriorates

Prayers for peace as South Sudan crisis deteriorates

Alliance member Tearfund is calling for urgent prayer for a ceasefire in South Sudan, where fighting has forced more than 400,000 people to flee their homes since conflict broke out in the nation's capital, Juba, on 15 December 2013.

Tens of thousands of people are now trying to survive in makeshift camps with very limited access to clean water, food or shelter. Despite ongoing peace talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, fighting continues and is hampering efforts to bring help to those in greatest need.

David Bainbridge, international director of Christian development agency Tearfund says: "The world's newest nation faces being torn apart by ethnic division. We must continue to do all we can, and to pray for peace to come quickly."

Speaking from the nation's capital, Juba, Kathleen Rutledge, Tearfund's deputy country director for South Sudan, said: "South Sudan is no stranger to conflict but what we are seeing now is fighting on a different scale, and while the conflict continues many more people will continue to flee their homes in search of safety. Securing a ceasefire is the utmost priority so that peace can be restored and the people of South Sudan can continue to rebuild their lives after generations of war.

"In Juba, more people are arriving every day, having walked for many miles without food or water. One woman arrived with her six children, on the verge of collapse, having walked more than 60 miles. There are 30,000 people like her in Juba alone. Every night 2,000 men, women and children are sleeping in a church compound to escape gunfire and looting. The conditions are terrible, with little drinking water, few sleeping mats and blankets and one toilet between them. This week, Tearfund are building latrines, setting up places for people to wash, providing clean drinking water and essential items."

Outside of the capital, Tearfund's relief teams are working in very insecure environments.  In remote rural communities in Jonglei State the teams are continuing to feed malnourished children and mothers, and to improve access to safe water.

Their priority now is to extend life-saving support to some of the 17,000 new arrivals in Uror County, Jonglei state, where Tearfund runs six feeding centres helping over 4,000 malnourished children and mothers every month. Even before the recent conflict, malnutrition rates were higher than at any point in the last five years.   

A tragic legacy of decades of war is that, in recent years, a girl growing up in South Sudan has been more likely to die in childbirth than to complete her education. Whole generations have grown up without the most basic education and adequate healthcare.  

To support Tearfund's work in South Sudan visit www.tearfund.org