Adapted from Anglican Communion News Service

Bishops from Equatoria, South Sudan, have given harrowing accounts of how recent conflict is affecting local communities. They urged the Anglican Alliance and Anglican partners to advocate for relief assistance.

Recently the armed conflict that has severely affected the states of Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei for two years has spread to Greater Equatoria, the Anglican Alliance learned from representatives of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan & Sudan during a recent conference call that it hosted for Anglican Communion partners.

“It is important to speed up the process of mobilizing resources so that help can reach people suffering now, with no water, no food, no medicine, said the Rt. Rev. Stephen Dokolo of the Diocese of Lui. “It’s a sad situation, very painful.”

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Bishop Dokolo said that communities in Greater Equatoria depend on the land for their livelihood, growing and harvesting food to sustain them throughout the year. Pastoralist communities that rely on livestock have come from the north looking for green pastures for their animals.

“The two can’t really mix,” he said.

Underlying tensions have exploded into conflict, particularly when a governmental decree that the cattle should be taken back home was not respected, he said. This escalated with the involvement of government forces. People have fled to the forest or further afield to camps in nearby towns or even Juba, the capital.

People hiding in the forest do not have access to water and are relying on wild plants for food, Bishop Dokolo said.

There is also great concern that the current violence could result in longer-term food insecurity, given reports that farmers have been unable to harvest their crops. People have been attacked as they try to return to their fields, said the Rev. Joseph El Hag, director of SUDRA, the relief and development arm of the Sudanese church. Food granaries and shops have been looted and burned to the ground.

Meanwhile, the health situation is worrisome, said the Rt. Rev. Tandema Andrew of the Diocese of Olo, with food and medicine rarely reaching remoter areas.

“People are dying, it is very precarious,” he said. “Children are dying of malaria, women are dying in childbirth; it is very difficult for people in the bush.”

The bishops also called for advocacy for peace to end the conflict that, according to the latest Global Emergencies reports, has left 6.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, displaced 1.7 million internally, and caused 640,400 South Sudanese to seek refuge in neighboring countries.

“Tell our brothers, let this peace be implemented and let us help [the] Government of South Sudan and opposition to implement peace in South Sudan,” Bishop Tandema said.

The Anglican Alliance will continue to coordinate support from the Anglican Communion for Equatoria and other areas of South Sudan, and serve as an advocacy and early-warning platform for the churches, said Janice Proud, the alliance’s relief and programs manager.

“It is good to flag up the real threat to longer-term food security,” she said. “We keep seeing that with emergencies the church is like an early warning system. We hear about a situation of impending food insecurity from the local church and then three to six months later it becomes international news. By partnering [we] can get things done.”

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