Relief efforts in famine-declared South Sudan at risk

Media Releases article written on the 04 May 2017

Rains in South Sudan will soon make relief efforts impossible, putting at risk the lives of millions of people, Oxfam Australia warned today.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke, currently in South Sudan, said that it had been a race against time to save lives since famine was declared in two areas of the country on 20 February.

The annual rainy season will make conditions even more difficult for the people in need of help and the aid agencies trying to reach them.

Dr Szoke is in Nyal, Panyijar County, where Oxfam runs a canoe voucher program, which brings the most vulnerable people off the swamp islands to access World Food Programme registrations and distributions, as well as water and sanitation programs to help people access safe drinking water.

“We are extremely concerned that it’s soon going to be even more difficult to reach isolated communities,” Dr Szoke said.

“In rainy conditions it’ll also be hard to keep water sources clean and cases of cholera and diarrhea could take even more lives.

“What I am seeing are malnourished women, men and children, displaced by conflict, hungry and homeless; I have met women who have walked nine days through swamps to reach safety.”

Whilst famine has been declared in South Sudan, an extreme lack of food is also causing severe hunger and malnutrition, across Nigeria, Yemen and the Horn of Africa.

Dr Szoke said that Oxfam welcomed the support of the Australian Government and its recent announcement of $20 million for the crisis in South Sudan, which will support the work of Oxfam, but said the government should urgently lift its commitment to Australian aid, given it was now at historically low levels.

“As a wealthy country, we cannot turn our backs on the poorest of the poor – the scale of need across the world is too immense,” she said.

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Notes to editors:

Dr Szoke is available for interview in South Sudan.

Nyal is in Panyijar County where IPC 4 was declared in January (stage before famine/ IPC 5), and could avoid a famine if the humanitarian assistance is delivered as planned from February to July. It has also seen a continued influx of people from Leer in central Unity, in which famine has been declared. Panyijar also has the joint worst (alongside Leer) nutrition situation in the country.

Oxfam’s canoe voucher program brings the most vulnerable people off the swamp islands to access World Food Programme registrations and distributions. Oxfam also delivers water and sanitation programming (which is directly linked to nutrition, with poor hygiene and sanitation leaving people at increased risk of diseases which, if unable to access safe drinking water, can lead to dehydration).

For interviews or further information, please contact Laurelle Keough on +61 425 701 801 or or Amanda Banks on +61 411 449 653 or