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World Vision evacuates Bentiu, South Sudan as conflict heightens

From World Vision:

JUBA, South Sudan, 25 April 2012 – As a result of the increased violence in Bentiu, South Sudan, World Vision has relocated its staff to Leer, a two-hour drive from Bentiu.  Similar security precautions have been taken by other humanitarian organizations in the region, and with few remaining emergency staff responding near Bentiu, World Vision’s national director fears for the children and families who have been left behind.

“Lives of children and communities are at stake and World Vision calls upon all stakeholders and the international community to do whatever is possible to help avert war,” said World Vision’s National Director in South Sudan, Edwin Asante. “It is already incredibly difficult to deliver humanitarian assistance in South Sudan, and if widespread conflict breaks out, it will make it almost impossible.”

In South Sudan, the World Food Program estimates the number of people threatened by food insecurity has now risen to 4.7 million, half of the current population. Of these, 1 million people require immediate help.  Thousands of refugees and internally displaced people are also in need of help, a figure that will only grow if the insecurity increases.  South Sudan anticipates an additional 700,000 people to return to the country from Sudan within the next few months.  For now, World Vision staff will continue to make the four-hour round-trip commute daily to provide urgently-needed emergency relief as long as the security situation remains volatile.  The humanitarian organization is one of the World Food Program’s biggest partners on the ground, and Asante added that food, water, and plastic sheeting are some of the most-needed items at this time.

World Vision is also concerned about the impact any additional conflict would have on the children of South Sudan, including children being pulled out of school, facing increased risk of abduction and even being recruited by armed groups and local militias to serve as child soldiers.

“All our work in South Sudan is done with an eye towards the country’s next generation,” Asante said. “We want to see this nation’s children healthy and in school, not caught up in conflict.  In a country where one in eight children dies before their fifth birthday and the maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the world, we want to make sure the focus stays on these important issues.”

In anticipation of the increased need, World Vision is scaling up the response in the most affected areas with an eye to both immediate aid and long term development:

  • Distribute food, hygiene kits and other items such as mosquito nets, blankets, buckets and soap to more than 6,000 households of internally displaced people, those returning to the area, and other vulnerable families along the border
  • Provide medical treatment and immunizations for refugees and internally displaced people in camps
  • Offer food incentive programs tied to education to keep children in school
  • Drill 13 new boreholes to provide clean, safe water and install new sanitation facilities to reach 23,000 people
  • Partner with local churches, schools and other non-profit agencies to expand conflict-reduction and peace-building programs among both children and adults

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