Conflict in Western Equatoria
Venasio Severio and his two young children were lucky to escape from the armed raiders who attacked their village in January. The fighters took his wife into the bush with them, while Venasio’s remaining family fled to another village called Manikakara Payam. Now he produces charcoal to provide for his family instead of farming. His four year son Linus Navara takes care of the other child instead of going to school so his father can work.
78 year old James Wani fled to Wowo village in February when the LRA attacked his home village of Manikakara, 10 miles from the border with DRC. With no family to support him, James urgently needs assistance to clear some land and plant crops to feed himself.
Many people have fled their homes in Western Equatoria state in South Sudan since the arrival of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) soldiers. The LRA were previously based in northern Uganda, were they fought a 20 year campaign against the army characterised by human rights abuses, abductions, torture, murder and rape. They moved into the dense equatorial forests that swathe the borders between Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central Africa Republic.
“People have abandoned the rural areas for the towns for more protection,” said Bishop Eduardo Kussala of Tombura-Yambio. “Refugees from Congo have also fled into his diocese to escaping the killing. Church schools have seen their class sizes expand from 45 to 300 children. The Church provides all the social services such as health and education and now we’re also looking after the people fleeing the violence.”
Read an interview with Bishop Kussala
Many have come to Manikakara Payam. But with no boreholes, hand pumps or other sources of clean water, women spend up to two hours a day fetching water from neighbouring villages. As they have to walk carrying heavy jerry cans, each women manages to bring back about 20 litres in one day – enough to support just one member of their family. In Madebe, the granary is now nearly empty because people are too afraid to go to the field to cultivate or harvest their crops. The main problem is hunger.
Caritas has already begun giving food through its Church partners to people in Western Equatoria. Caritas found that 52,000 people in five counties didn’t have enough shelter, food, clean water, and that malaria was endemic in many of the villages.
Hunger is extremely high. Caritas will provide food to 25,000 people in Ezo, Tombura and Nagero that are not accessible to others. Caritas will also provide clothing, tarpaulin for shelter, and clean water. Impregnated bed nets will also be distributed to combat malaria.
Distributing quick-maturing seeds like pumpkin seeds and okra can help meet people’s basic needs for food. This can reduce food aid and support people like Venasio Severio to live a more dignified life.
Western Equatoria needs food aid to survive today, but the future of the people depends on lasting peace. Bishop Edward Kussala led some 20,000 people walking barefoot over two miles in September in silent protest over the bloodshed.
Caritas helped broker peace in 2006 with the LRA and the Ugandan government. Caritas believes opening up dialogue with the LRA leadership and the active engagement of the UN will be key.
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