Conflict, hunger affect children in South Sudan

(World Vision)
(World Vision)

Michael Morrah's trip to South Sudan was made possible with support from World Vision. You can donate to the South Sudan crisis appeal here.

The United Nations says South Sudan's brutal civil war has driven more than 2.3 million people from their homes. That's one in every five.

There was plenty of optimism for South Sudan when it gained independence in 2011, making it the world's newest nation.

But two years later, a power struggle between the president and his deputy ignited a war between the country's two biggest tribes -- the Dinka and the Nuer. A peace deal has been signed, but the fighting continues.

Around 645,000 have fled to neighbouring countries, while 1.6 million have been internally displaced. Around 185,000 of them now live in UN-protected camps.

We begin our series in a village near Malakal -- a key disputed town in the oil-rich Upper Nile state.

Baby Emanual is oblivious to the hostile world he's been born into. At just four months old, he was found abandoned.

"It was brought to our attention that one kid was abandoned, because the economic situation just maybe prompted the mother not to take care of the baby," says World Vision response operations manager Monde Nasilela. "The baby was dumped in a toilet. The community managed to retrieve [the baby], and that was reported to World Vision."

Dumped but not forgotten, he's now being cared for. But Emanuel's story gives an insight into the myriad of struggles in South Sudan.

At the heart of the problem is years of conflict, which has divided this nation and led to the displacement of millions.

"I have nothing here -- just my two hands and the two hands of my wife and my children," says displaced person James Jany.

He says his home is gone, as well as his cattle and livelihood.

Mr Jany is among the 38,000 living inside a UN-protected camp in the town of Malakal. He like everyone else came to shelter from the violence.

But just four months ago, the camp's secure checkpoints were breached. A targeted, organised massacre ensued, and 25 were killed. More than 1000 shelters were set alight.

Mr Jany watched as his unarmed mates were gunned down.

"Four of my good friends, they have been shot to death," he says.

It's a grim existence in the camp, made even more challenging by the crammed, squalid conditions. Mosquito-infested drains encircle the camp. Water and food is scare.

The people have been forced from their homes by war and there are many thousands of them now living in makeshift structures. They have some very basic supplies. Water is provided by the UN, but sickness and malnutrition is rife. Every day is a struggle.

At least of half of those living in the camp are children.

We came across a group making guns out of mud. Sadly, this is what they've grown up around -- violence and weapons.

I met 13 year-old Chubath Tut-Khor and began by asking her if she was okay.

"I saw bad things in the city," she says. "People were killed and burned inside their houses."

But there are programmes aimed at helping young people re-focus their minds organised by groups like World Vision.

"We are trying our level best to engage them so they can take out some of these bad experiences, because it was bad seeing people being killed; some of their parents have been killed," says Mr Nasilela.

Laughter, dancing and songs are distractions and bring a feeling of safety amid the confrontation and suffering.


Michael Morrah's trip to South Sudan was made possible with support from World Vision.

If you would like to contribute to life-saving aid for the people of South Sudan, you can donate to World Vision’s crisis appeal today.