South Sudan is not only the newest country on the planet, it may be about to surpass even Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Ukraine, the Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa, or any other country in terms of the scale of human suffering happening there. A civil war between the government and rebel forces under the command of former vice president Riek Machar has been raging on and off since December, when South Sudanese President Salva Kiir accused Machar of fomenting a coup against him and Machar’s mostly-Nuer supporters rebelled against Kiir and his mostly-Dinka supporters (though I should stress that reducing the fighting to a simple ethnic conflict is unfair and oversimplified). Machar operates out of neighboring Ethiopia now, while Uganda is backing Kiir. The two sides reached an agreement on a transitional government in June, an agreement that didn’t even last a full week before fighting resumed. The talks are ongoing.
While the talks continue, both sides are accused of carrying out attacks targeting civilians, and overall the war has created over 500,000 refugees and internally displaced over 1 million people, and counting on both fronts. Parts of the country have now slipped into famine, as the fighting destroys crops, prevents people from working, and keeps food assistance from getting into the country. Edmond Mulet, who is a UN assistant secretary-general, is saying that as many as 4 million people are at risk of famine, and 50,000 children could die just this year from malnutrition. They’re also dealing with an outbreak of cholera, not surprising given all the displaced people.
I don’t have anything insightful to say here. One of the things I try to do with this blog is to highlight places in the world where terrible things are happening to decent people, and even when I’m late to a story as I am with this one, I try to note it anyway. This certainly qualifies.