Food crisis in South Sudan: Ensuring nobody is left behind
As the food crisis worsens across East Africa, individual stories from our programme in South Sudan remind us that caring for vulnerable people during emergencies is a moral obligation.
Ugok and Mary, Malakal, South Sudan | © Joseph Rasi/Handicap International
In 2013, following intense fighting and fearing for his life, Uguok Ajang Goldit fled his home in Malakal, South Sudan. Along with thousands of others, he sought refuge at the nearest United Nations base, which has since become a Protection of Civilians site.
At the site, humanitarian organisations provide for people’s most basic needs, including food and clean water. But, as conditions are cramped, rudimentary and physically challenging, people with mobility problems or learning difficulties are at risk of being overlooked.
Ugock had little support
Ugock is an 80-year-old single man living with scoliosis, a congenital deformity of the spinal column. Having left everything behind, Uguock found that all of his everyday tasks were challenging and time consuming. In particular, he found it difficult to walk the long distances to collect his food ration.
Handicap International intervened to provide him with a tricycle that allows him to access food and healthcare more easily. Last week, when our ‘flying team’ was in Malakal conducting home visits, Ugock showed us the dish-hangers he has been making from old sacks, which he now sells to generate an income.
Mary can now get around with dignity
Mary, who is partially paralised in the lower body, has also benefitted from a tricycle mobility aid. When she arrived at the camp in 2013, she moved around on her hands and knees, which meant she was reliant on others to buy food and had difficulties using the toilets. Mary says that her life has changed drastically thanks to the help that Handicap International has provided, “I can now go to Church, market and even attend our monthly disability meetings without crawling”.
Ensuring no one is left behind
South Sudan is currently experiencing severe food shortages. Two regions in the north of the country were declared as in a state of famine in February 2017, meaning that people are already dying from hunger and disease.
The crisis has been described as ‘man-made’ because conflict is at the root of the problem. Violence has forced people to leave their homes, their land and their livestock, leading to reduced food production and soaring prices. Many families are now completely dependent on food assistance to survive.
As the food crisis worsens throughout the region, many more people are going to find themselves in extremely challenging situations. Xavier Duvauchelle, head of Handicap International’s East and Southern Africa programmes, explains that now, more than ever, “We must work with emergency response organisations to support them in providing essential care to people who are at risk of being excluded, including people with disabilities and the elderly.”
 A place of refuge for civilians under threat of physical violence. May not provide the same level of assistance as an ‘Internally Displaced Persons’ camp.