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South Sudan: famine through the barrel of a gun.

South Sudan: famine through the barrel of a gun. – 28 Oct 2014

The agencies fear that efforts this year to prevent the crisis from deteriorating will falter as rival sides are regrouping ready to resume violence once the rainy seasons ends this month. The number of people facing dangerous levels of hunger is expected to increase by 1 million between January and March next year.

In the report , “From Crisis to Catastrophe”, the aid agencies called for neighbouring governments and the wider international community to redouble diplomatic efforts to put real pressure on the parties to the conflict to end the fighting, including an arms embargo. They said so far the international community’s ‘softly-softly’ approach to the peace talks has failed to secure a meaningful cease-fire.

They also added that there needs to be an increase in both the quantity and quality of the aid effort.

Tariq Reibl head of Oxfam programme in South Sudan said: “If famine comes to South Sudan it will come through the barrel of a gun. This is a man-made crisis not one caused by the vagaries of the weather and though humanitarian aid is vital it cannot fix a political problem. The international community is much better at saving lives than it is at helping solve the political problems that put lives in peril. Nine months of the softly-softly approach to peace negotiations has failed. If the international community really wants to avert a famine then it has to make bold diplomatic efforts to bring both sides to end the fighting.”

The aid agencies said that a mixture of significant aid, a lull in the fighting due to the wet season and the ability of the South Sudanese to cope with hardship, has managed to stave off a famine for the moment. However they warned that now that the wet season is over, an upsurge in fighting is likely, setting back any gains made in the last few months and potentially pushing areas into famine by March 2015.

Since the current round of conflict began in South Sudan in December 2013, the country has been pushed to the brink of disaster. However the international aid effort has saved thousands of lives, much of it generously funded by the US, the UK and the EU who have given 60 per cent of the total funding. The UN Mission in South Sudan has opened its compounds to around 100,000 civilians, saving them from ethnic violence, and peace negotiations led by South Sudan’s neighbours have come close to brokering a deal.

Looking back over 2014, Aimee Ansari head of CARE in South Sudan said:

“South Sudan only just missed falling into famine this year. Partly this was due to the aid effort but much of it is due to the strength, resilience and generosity of the South Sudanese people themselves.

“But they are now at the end of their tether. You can only sell all your livestock once. Eating seeds meant for planning keeps the gnawing hunger away for the moment, but it is mortgaging the future to meet the desperate needs of the present. The people of South Sudan did what they could to survive this year – but that means they will be vulnerable next year. They need to see an end to the fighting so normal life can resume.”

Many of the 1.4 million people displaced from their homes are facing an uncertain future. The fighting has disrupted markets and pushed up food prices. Fishermen have been barred from rivers, cattle herders have had their cattle stolen, or been forced to sell them off cheaply. The expected upsurge in fighting once the rains have ended in October will tip many over the edge.

The aid agencies called for donor governments to fully support the UN’s appeals for humanitarian work in South Sudan and the refugee crisis in neighbouring countries. They also said that the quality of aid needs to be improved. It needs to be delivered where people are rather than where it is easier to reach. And it needs to build on the way people cope with the crisis and to enable them to face any future crisis better prepared.

The aid agencies also called on all the government of South Sudan, the opposition and other armed groups to immediately stop fighting and work towards a long-term, sustainable peace deal. All their forces need to stop attacks against civilians, end the use of child soldiers and allow humanitarian workers safe access to people needing their help.

Be part of the Christian response to the crisis in South Sudan, please donate here

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Iraq - Winter is coming

Iraq - Winter is coming – 28 Oct 2014

‘Winter is coming.’ The words bring a sense of pending doom, even for people who only know it as a TV show catchphrase. In speaking with displaced communities in northern Iraq, I heard those same words over and over again, and they came with a similar sense of fear and uncertainty about the coming winter.

As part of Tearfund’s needs assessment team, my job was to spend time with the displaced communities to find out what their needs are so we can respond in the most appropriate way.

As we pulled up to the first displaced community, who were living beside a field in the remains of buildings once used for animals, we were warmly welcomed; they pulled out their good mattresses for us to sit on and quickly offered us tea and water.

But before we had even sat down they all started speaking at the same time – rapidly, passionately and with fear in their eyes. I desperately looked to my translator to find out what they were saying, and she said, ‘Winter – they are all saying, “Winter, what are we going to do for the winter?” ’

They fled with whatever they could carry. They have no winter clothes, no winter blankets, no heaters, no shelter – nothing. As we sat in the searing 50 degree heat, it was hard to imagine that winter could be a concern, but winter is coming and in just a few short weeks the temperatures will drop below zero. With current living conditions and supplies being far from suitable for the harsh winter, their fears will become a reality if something isn’t done soon.

They went on to tell us about their time on Mount Sinjar, where food and water were difficult to find and hundreds of children died from dehydration. They told us about their friends and family who were killed as they fled, and about their daughters who are still being held by IS. They told us all this as tears streamed down their faces.

We went to meet different displaced groups, speaking with Yazidis and Christians. From one group to the next, it was the same story, the same horrors, the same pain.

Each time I was lost for words. How could I respond? No words could bring comfort; words could not change what has happened. All I could do was pray – pray that they see compassion in my eyes, pray that they know God’s comfort, and pray that we as Tearfund can do something in a practical way to help alleviate their current suffering and fears for the future.

Fortunately I had the chance to see that begin to happen. We organised clothing distributions where more than 900 children received new clothes, warm enough for the coming months. Our team has given out food, blankets and hygiene kits, and we’re helping make sure people get access to water and sanitation.

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Our local partners are taking mobile health clinics to remote areas, and are providing trauma care. In some ways it all feels like a drop in the ocean compared to the needs, but the smiles on the children’s faces when I gave them their new clothes told me otherwise.

Your gifts make this valuable work possible. Please help us to stand alongside those who are suffering in Iraq – donate here

Christian response to Iraq crisis

Christian response to Iraq crisis – 22 Aug 2014

As the conflicts in Iraq and the wider Middle East continue to dominate the headlines, we urgently pray for those affected by the violence. We lift up the people of Gaza, Syria and Iraq.

Over 850,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in northern Iraq. They are in desperate need of help. Thousands of people have been persecuted for their faith, including Christians and Yazidis. Those who have managed to flee are in need of food, water and shelter.

Tearfund Ireland is currently responding in the middle-east region to the crisis in Syria (More information here) which is now in its fourth year, and we also feel compelled to extend our response to Iraq which the UN has just declared a Level 3 humanitarian crisis, along with Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

As a Christian response to these crises, we’re asking people to stand with us in prayer and to help us find the money we need to give essential aid to those people in most desperate need in Iraq and Syria at this time. Click here to donate.

Elsewhere Tearfund is also responding to urgent needs in South Sudan where as a result of ethnic conflict four million people are suffering from a severe food crisis, 1.5 million people have been displaced and 386,000 people have had to flee to neighbouring countries.

To join our emergency response in South Sudan please donate here

Click here to download a prayer power point for South Sudan that can be used by churches, groups or individuals.

Please do join us in prayer for all of these situations and the many people suffering across the globe as a result of violence and conflict.

Follow this link for a prayer for troubled times.

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Update:South Sudan

Update:South Sudan – 21 Jul 2014

Tearfund reports an increase of more than 300 percent in the number of malnourished children and mothers needing food from its six feeding centres in remote communities in Jonglei, one of the country’s worst affected states, compared to this time last year.(1)

People have fled from their villages and have not been able to plant their crops as usual due to the fighting. The harvests in August and November will not provide the usual yields.

The UN estimates that 4 million people are desperately short of food in South Sudan, out of a population of 10.8 million, a figure which could increase to over 7 million by August. An extra one billion dollars is needed to save lives, prevent famine, and stop a generation of children being wiped out by hunger, according to the UN.(2)

Tearfund’s Country Director states “Famine looms in parts of the country, as the conflict rages on and at a time when rains render some areas virtually inaccessible as roads become rivers of mud. The World Food Programme has estimated that more than 50,000 children will die this year due to hunger (3) unless there is an immediate and widespread response.”

Many of the people arriving for the first time at Tearfund’s feeding centres have fled the fighting in Bor and Malakal, flashpoints in the six-month long conflict. Last week, a mother and her five young children arrived at Tearfund’s feeding centre in Motot, having walked more than 100km (60 miles) to escape fierce fighting in Malakal.

Despite last month’s agreement (10th June) to bring South Sudan’s war to an end and to form a unity government within 60 days, fighting continues between the Government and rebel forces. The conflict has brought an estimated 20,000 new people to Uror County, Jonglei state, placing unprecedented strain on local families’ dwindling food reserves.

Please give what you can and join the Irish Church response to the crisis in Sudan.

Footnotes:

1) New patient admissions for April 2013 were 216, compared to 710 in April 2014, an increase in over 300%, at feeding centres in Motot, Pieri, Pulchol and Pathai, all in Uror county.
2) UN 2014 South Sudan Crisis Response Plan, 14 June 2014
3) UN 2014 South Sudan Crisis Response Plan, 14 June 2014

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South Sudan Crisis Appeal

South Sudan Crisis Appeal – 27 Jun 2014

Fighting erupted in South Sudan at the end of 2013, between forces loyal to President Salva Kirr, who belongs to the Dinka ethnic group and former Deputy President Riek Machar who belongs to the Lou Nuer. So far the conflict has led to 1.5 million people fleeing their homes, of which 386,000 have left the country for neighbouring nations. Although a ceasefire was signed last month, insecurity has disrupted livelihoods and many face hunger.

Tearfund is responding in South Sudan and is providing emergency latrines and sanitation facilities as well as fixing boreholes and giving hygiene and sanitation awareness training. Tearfund are also running six feeding centres – addressing the urgent needs of malnourished mothers, pregnant women and children under five.

Tearfund is also working with local churches responding to the crisis such as Don Bosco church near the capital Juba. The church is accommodating 100 homeless families on its land who have fled their homes in fear of escalating ethnic violence.

We need your help Our emergency fund is exhausted and without your financial support we will not be able to provide an Irish church response to the imminent crisis in South Sudan.

€18.00 provides essential items to help a family survive in the early days of a crisis

Please give what you can and join the Irish Church response to the crisis in Sudan.

Help us save lives today.

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Tearfund welcomes visitors from Malawi

Tearfund welcomes visitors from Malawi – 26 Jun 2014

Mphatso is the Director of LISAP (Livingstonia Synod AIDS Project) and Aaron works as a Project Officer for Tearfund Malawi. Both Mphatso and Aaron work tirelessly to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS in Malawi. Malawi is a country stricken by HIV, 11% of the population are HIV positive, which is roughly 1.1 million people. This is one of the highest in the world. 1.1 million is a huge number and it is difficult to grasp but as Mphatso explained; to her, “it is real people, suffering, struggling, wanting to live”. Mphatso and Aaron work side by side with people living with HIV, young people, children, poor people, whoever is in need of support.

The main thrust of Mphatso and Aaron’s work is the IMPACT project; this programme aims to reduce the transmission of HIV from HIV positive mothers to their unborn babies. Mphatso says that “we have to start with the children in order to have a nation free from HIV and that is Mphatso’s ultimate aim, for her country to be free from a disease that has already taken so many.

The IMPACT project has been brought about by communities and churches in Malawi and is supported by communities and churches here in Ireland. It is using innovative ways to support people living with HIV as well as preventing further transmission. Read more on this project

LISAP also support vulnerable youths through a vocational skills training school. In Malawi especially in the rural areas, half of the young people have no education. As a result of poverty they cannot afford school fees, Mphatso explained that as young people have no education and no employment they tend to marry early, they then have children. This Mphatso explains, adds to the cycle of poverty as these children will also have no money to go to school and when they are older will find themselves in the same situation and poverty trap as their parents. Many of them will also be left orphaned by AIDS long before that. Many young people are also lured into prostitution in order to earn money to support their families.

Mphatso explained that churches and communities want to help their young people; they want to break this cycle of poverty. As a result LISAP’s vocational skills training school has been replicated in different churches across Malawi so more young people can be offered a way out, a hope for a brighter future, a future free from HIV and the viscous cycle of poverty.

Mphatso and Aaron were just wonderful people to be around, so inspiring and full of energy. Even when we drove them to Limerick and back again in a day and they did not get to their beds until the early hours of the morning, they did not stop giving and sharing their hope and faith to all those around them.

Mphatso and Aaron are an amazing example of people who have dedicated their lives to transforming the lives of others. Mphatso herself has adopted several children who lost their parents to AIDS and she reminds us that we give because Christ gave first and implores all of us;

‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’ Galations 6:9

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