Scottish Catholic charities are urging the faithful to support the millions of people caught up in the developing world’s “forgotten crisis” in South Sudan.
SCIAF (Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund) has committed £60,000 of Scottish donations to emergency aid, while Mary’s Meals has launched an emergency campaign to increase the number of children it can feed in the war-torn country.
Officials said seven million people in the African country are facing a hunger crisis as the lean season between harvests approaches and fighting continues.
SCIAF has sent £30,000 to Caritas South Sudan’s Emergency Appeal to give 14,000 people food, shelter, healthcare, clean water, sanitation and emergency supplies to survive.
SCIAF, part of Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church’s global network of international aid and development charities, has pledged a further £30,000 to partners, the Comboni Missionaries in South Sudan.
This extra money will provide emergency food aid to another 2,100 people including displaced by fighting, disabled, elderly women and children in three of the worst conflict-hit communities.
Meanwhile, Mary’s Meals, which provides a daily meal to children attending school in some of the poorest parts of the world, has worked in South Sudan since 2008.
It already feeds more than 20,000 children but more young people are now trying to enrol at schools serving Mary’s Meals as a number of other schools have been destroyed in the war.
Mary’s Meals founder and chief executive Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow described the plight of children in South Sudan as “truly heartbreaking”.
“For them, the promise of a daily school meal has never been more important.
“We are determined to keep our promise to the 1,257,278 children around the world who rely on Mary’s Meals.
“With more hungry children arriving at schools in South Sudan each day, we also need help to meet the growing demand there.
“We hope to ensure that every new child enrolling at schools in South Sudan already serving Mary’s Meals can receive a daily meal and, as funds allow, also expand our programme to reach 1,657 additional children at five new schools there.
“We can do this with support while continuing to expand our programme around the world to reach many more children.”
Mary’s Meals has been working with the Diocese of Rumbek to feed children at 40 schools in the area.
Education co-ordinator Moses Kopurot Kenyi said: “It’s a terrible situation. Many of the children are displaced or without their parents. They are very traumatised.
“There is a lot of hunger and people are just eating leaves from trees. Mary’s Meals’ feeding programme is helping us a lot. For these children, there is no other source of food.
“Education is really important for helping to build peace. Without education, the situation will never change and the division and anger will still be there.”
Meanwhile, SCIAF’s Director Alistair Dutton warned that although the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan is deteriorating, the world has forgotten about it.
“Please pray for millions of people who are living in constant fear and insecurity. They are desperately hungry and struggle to find water. They are also suffering mentally and physically,” he said.
“The UN has reported that nearly seven million people from South Sudan need emergency aid such as food, water and basic medicines due to a protracted civil war in the country.
“Violence in the world’s youngest nation is now in its fifth year, and has resulted in tens of thousands of people being killed. One in three South Sudanese have fled their homes – almost 90 per cent of them are women and children.
“Our Church partners are doing all they can to support those caught up in the fighting in the worst affected areas but this crisis is massive.
“£60,000 of Scottish donations will give emergency aid to as many people as we can and we are urgently looking at what more we can do to help as the situation is only likely to get worse with heavy rains expected in the coming months.
“We make sure that money from Scotland goes to the poorest people who need it most so please keep your donations coming in so we can help even more people in crisis.”
To find out more about Mary’s Meal’s or to make a donation to their South Sudan appeal see: www.marysmeals.org.uk
To find out more about SCIAF’s work in emergencies like this or to make a donation to their Emergency Response Fund see: www.sciaf.org.uk/emergency or call 0141 354 5555.