LAST WEEK AT Strokestown’s Famine Commemoration, an Taoiseach Enda Kenny paid tribute to the empathy of Irish people with those suffering the effects of hunger in the world today, adding: “In remembering our past, we must not lose sight of our present”.
South Sudan – the world’s newest and poorest country equal in size to France – has experienced just three years of independence and already the seeds of hope sown then have turned to despair in the aftermath of violence that erupted last December.
It is disappointing that while many nations pushed for and supported South Sudan’s independence from Sudan, little such commitment is now forthcoming from the wider international community in the form of aid . Ireland is one of a small handful of countries who are proving to be the exception to the rule when, despite devastating reports of hunger and violence, the UN humanitarian appeal for South Sudan is currently only 40% funded.
Confronted by armed men who wanted them dead
Some 7 million people in South Sudan, almost two thirds of the population, do not have enough to eat right now. At least 4.9 million of these – equivalent to the Republic of Ireland’s population – are in need of humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, over 1.3 million people have been forced to flee their homes including some 300,000 to surrounding countries. As is often the case, it is the poorest who are hardest hit amd amongst them children and elderly who are most vulnerable.
Martha Nyandit and her children are amongst the thousands of people who have fled several rounds of violent and bloody fighting in and around the town of Bor in Jonglei state. With gunshots ringing through the night, the family fled from their home and crossed the river Nile to an island where they thought they would be safe, only to find themselves confronted again by armed men who wanted them dead.
Martha, whose husband, a soldier in the South Sudanese government army called into action and killed in the town of Bor in January this year, and her children, had no place to hide but in the river itself. The water came up to her chest as she carried one child on her back, the baby around her neck and a third floating on her arm. She had to force her four-year-old boy to stay silent.
After a day spent submerged in the water, they managed to make their way to Mingkaman camp, where they now live among thousands of displaced families who depend on distributions of food and water to stay alive.