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CARE finds dire humanitarian situation in previously unaffected areas of South Sudan

CARE is worried about the new spread of fighting and insecurity to the Greater Equatoria region, an area previously largely unaffected by the conflict that has engulfed the country since December 2013.

CARE assessments in Imatong State (Eastern Equatoria) show largescale displacement, with many homes burnt and looted during the fighting, and attacks on civilians and NGOs becoming increasingly common.

In August and September CARE led an interagency assessment in three of the counties of Imatong State affected by renewed conflict in July. Much of this area has been cut off to humanitarian actors since July due to widespread insecurity and in many areas the assessment team were the first humanitarian actors on the ground since conflict erupted.

The CARE-led assessment in the three counties of Torit, Ikwoto and Magwi found that large numbers of people had been displaced – especially in Magwi town which was now hosting over 34,000 displaced people from other parts of the county – and also a large number of burnt and looted homes. Across the three counties people remain afraid to move around to access key services like healthcare, and the large exodus of people has also decreased availability of services. Ongoing insecurity, compounded with food shortages and high prices, means that many are in desperate need of food assistance and basic relief items.

According to CARE South Sudan’s Country Director Fred McCray; “many families are now living with relatives as they don’t feel safe to return home, or they no longer have a home to return to. This is putting an extra strain on household resources and space, as most people fled with nothing. Others still are choosing to live in caves in the hills or out in their fields because of the continuing fear of attacks.”

Since the end of June 2016, more than 200,000 South Sudanese refugees and asylum-seekers have crossed into Uganda, according to the UN Refugee Agency. The majority of these come from the Greater Equatoria region of South Sudan, including Imatong State. Communities within Imatong report that a lack of food and disrupted education services for their children, coupled with the continuing insecurity, are the main drivers. Others expressed the wish to flee to Uganda but said they didn’t have the money to afford transport for their families.

The Eastern Equatoria area has traditionally been known as South Sudan’s ‘green belt’ and the main food producing region for the entire country. October through till December/January is one of the two harvest seasons within the country and usually a time of increased food availability.

“We are seeing the food security situation in the Equatorias getting worse and worse,” says McCray. “This is a new and very worrying factor as they are traditionally the ones feeding the rest of the country. Fighting means people can’t access their fields to tend and harvest crops and many households have had their crops destroyed and livestock killed.”

The assessment found that women had been disproportionately affected by the July violence, with an increase in the number of gender based violence attacks both within families and by external armed elements. Many women reported that they are still afraid to move freely due to continuing insecurity.

“Women are forced on a daily basis to make the terrible choice between safety and survival. Food shortages and continued insecurity increase the risk of rape; with women having to travel out of safety to collect food and firewood,” says McCray. “Women are telling us that they are sent, rather than men, for these tasks, as it is better to be raped than killed; which the men would likely be. The horrific choice now, for many families, is between rape and death.”

The assessment also found that practices of forced marriage of girls had increased over the past two months in many areas as a coping mechanism for the economic revival of families in crisis.

CARE plans to distribute basic relief items such as jerry cans, mats, blankets and cooking sets as well as seeds and tools in Imatong State to those affected by July’s conflict. As a result of the renewed clashes and expansion of the areas affected by the ongoing conflict CARE is seeking an additional US $7 million, to help some 100,000 people in the Eastern Equatoria area, as well as other parts of the country.

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To arrange an interview with CARE spokespeople in South Sudan or Canada, contact:

Darcy Knoll
Communications Specialist | CARE Canada
darcy.knoll@care.ca | +1.613.790.2134

The full needs assessment reports can be found here: Magwi, Torit, Ikwoto

CARE in South Sudan

CARE has been operating in Southern Sudan since 1993, most recently providing assistance in health, nutrition, food security and livelihoods, peace building and gender based violence prevention across four states including some of the worst affected by conflict. CARE currently works in Upper Nile, Unity, Jonglei and Eastern Equatoria. Since the crisis began in 2013 CARE has assisted over 300,000 people across these four states. CARE has around 310 staff on the ground of which the majority (almost 300) are national staff.