Escalating violence hampers operations in South Sudan's capital

(Juba, South Sudan) - Heavy gunfire and fighting is rocking the capital, Juba, following a flare up in violence that coincided with world's newest nation marking its fifth year of independence. More than 200 people have reportedly been killed in the fighting.

The escalation of violence has forced World Vision South Sudan to review operations in Juba, although in the rest of the country relief response work continues.

Jeremiah Young, WVSS, Policy, Advocacy, and Peacebuilding Advisor, is in Juba. He said, "Heavy fighting is again being felt after a short lull during heavy rains yesterday (Sunday).  This time the fighting is closer to the World Vision compound. We can see people living in the vicinity packing up and fleeing, carrying their children and taking what little they can pack in time. There is still chance to salvage peace, and we hope and pray that all individuals, local and abroad, do all they can to support this process. The situation is becoming more tense by the moment, and World Vision is extremely concerned about the wellbeing of the children of South Sudan.  The humanitarian situation, which was already unprecedented, with 4.8 million individuals experiencing severe hunger and malnutrition will only worsen if the violence continues, making it even more difficult for organizations like World Vision to provide support for those in need. The ability to respond to this crisis will depend very much on the level of relief stocks that have been prepositioned prior to the rainy season.  But because the 2016 humanitarian response plan has only been 39 percent funded, this makes it even more difficult for humanitarians to respond to growing need arising from these latest developments.  It has also caused World Vision to limit the extent to which they can carry out other critical interventions such as child protection and emergency education. Right now, WV is working with partners such as WFP so see what they are able to do meet the needs of the newly displaced, but food stocks and the security environment will dictate how much we can do at this time. 

"World Vision is deeply concerned by the escalating violence in and around Juba.  The situation deteriorated over the weekend and we are worried that it will continue to worsen.  The citizens of Juba and those living in protection sites for the displaced across the country are extremely concerned for their safety.  We urge all parties to urgently do all they can to calm the situation and prioritize the protection of civilians.

We are especially concerned for the wellbeing of children who as we know are especially vulnerable, physically and emotionally to conflict and insecurity."

World Vision is currently working in South Sudan with hundreds of thousands of displaced people across the country, which includes the tens of thousands of individuals currently seeking shelter in the Juba People of Concern site.  Years of conflict have had a devastating impact on children who have suffered disproportionally from hunger, malnutrition, poverty, loss of shelter, and a loss of education. In addition to the physical affects of conflict, children have been emotionally harmed by what they have experienced and witnessed.  

Mr Young said, "It is World Vision's belief that despite this challenging time, South Sudan has a bright and abundant future, and if given the chance to experience peace and stability, the people of South Sudan will actively contribute to building a healthy and prosperous nation for their children, families, and communities. World Vision will to do what it can to work with its partners such as WFP in providing relief to those in need."

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