East Africa

South Sudan is dying we cannot help ourselves, says Bishop

South Sudan is collapsing with millions of people facing mass starvation, said Bishop Erkolano Lodu Tombe, President of Caritas South Suda:n and Bishop of Yei.

In a visit to Rome, Bishop Tombe, earlier this week to muster support for the crisis-ridden country he said: “The poor and the unarmed are suffering.”

Bishop Tombe made a plea for resources: “Without support for emergency relief it will get worse, people are dying.”

The Bishop added that, “There is food scarcity and a lack of medication… We need food to save people from starvation as well as medicine and education for the few kids wherever they are so they can get to school.”

Bishop Tombe said there are now 1.8 million internally displaced persons in South Sudan and 1.5 million refugees. The United Nations estimates 5.8 million people will need humanitarian assistance to fight starvation in South Sudan in 2017.

Painting a picture of the dire situation in South Sudan, Tombe said, “Civilians are attacked wherever they are – in their homes and when they go out in search of food. When they want to go and harvest their crops they can be considered rebels or sympathisers and eliminated. Civilians are dying and people are disappearing.”

Speaking from the experience of one of the worst affected of the seven Diocese in South Sudan, the Diocese of Yei, on the south west region, and DR Congo, the Bishop said, “The roads are all blocked so there is no way for the people to leave and no way for people to come in… There are over 100,000 people trapped in Yei. The only way to reach them is by air and with no support they will die of hunger.”

“We cannot do it by ourselves.” Bishop Tombe declared. “The voice of the Holy Father is very clear: Don’t leave South Sudan alone. It is not about talking, it is about doing something, that is what Pope Francis said.”

Father John Opi Severino Oduavi from the diocese of Torit called for an end to the fighting and said a ceasefire was essential so that relief agencies and church leaders could help people overcome food scarcity. “We need the guns to be silent then we need to promote unity in South Sudan. The national cohesion that existed during the referendums needs to be restored first. This will take time, this is a process.”