|Maryam Tariq and Mina Anwar
The rapidly rising humanitarian crisis in South Sudan may have more than just national implications. The political volatility underpinning violence and conflict in the region has created ethnic divisions and fragmentation of the newly independent state of South Sudan.
Conflict in the region has not only created grave food insecurities but also led to the displacement of large masses of locals. While the UN and other aid agencies attempt to assist the local population in these unprecedented times, the logistical, demographic, and geographical challenges add to the complexities of responding to South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis.
Read more: UNSC: The people of Sudan must be protected
Impact of the conflict
The Humanitarian and Emergency team of World Vision Australia traces the origin of the conflict back to the state’s capital Juba in 2013. The fighting among members of the South Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement has displaced over 1.35 million people and left another 4.9 million in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
The displacement has had profound impacts on food production, availability, and access. The conflict drove people away from their farms and livestock. The harvesting season went unutilized leading to production shortages and zero incomes, creating vulnerability.
The conflict has hampered trade and market operations building inflationary pressures that are predicted to drive 7 million people towards a food emergency. Additionally, the national situation may spill onto neighboring countries in the form of refugees and migrants, creating a burden on their existing resources, thereby creating a transnational crisis.
Challenges faced while providing aid
With the coronavirus adding to the difficulty of providing relief, the multiplicity of actors involved in a common mission blurs the distinction. Viren Falcao and Hosanna Fox in the October issue of HPN analyze geographical and infrastructural impediments in managing the humanitarian response.
The military operation combined with UN peacekeeping poses a dilemma to manage the ethnically diverse population of South Sudan. 60% of the region remains accessible only by air for most parts of the year adding tremendously to the cost of the assistance program.
Moreover, the rising violence and brutality have impeded relief operations after officials have faced harassment and intimidation. With deteriorating support from the government and an increasingly challenging environment, the efficacy of the humanitarian intervention to the crisis in South Sudan is questionable.
According to UNOCHA, $1.9 billion is required in the way of providing relief. While $1.1 billion has been generated for relief efforts in food, nutrition, education, and water, $827.1 million is still required to reach the millions of malnourished and internally displaced children and adults.
Although the UN and NGOs have found success in providing basic survival necessities, the humanitarian intervention in South Sudan needs to be redesigned keeping the local context and population in mind.
The increasingly expensive aid structure is unlikely to sustain itself given the escalating nature of conflict-ridden South Sudan.
Read more: Sudan: nearly three decades under Bashir
How to achieve lasting peace?
After years of fighting, South Sudan’s government and opposition parties announced a transitional government in February 2020. Thus far, the absence of formal government has allowed the local conflicts to continue.
Therefore, for South Sudan to reach lasting peace and stability, it is necessary that a focus on conflict resolution and establishing robust leadership should be prioritized.
Moreover, to protect the country’s financial integrity, a negotiated shift shall include a much stronger oversight mechanism, involving both South Sudanese and international officials assisting each other to control spending and oversee contracts, where high levels of corruption are centered.
A potential model like Liberia’s Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program (GEMAP) can be helpful in this regard.
In order to restart the stagnant international leverage for peace efforts, income means of troublesome leaders responsible for the conflict, atrocities, mass corruption, and interrupting humanitarian and peace efforts should be confiscated.
The U.S can take charge by enforcing anti-money laundering and expand targeted sanctions, a strategy that has worked before to secure foreign policy objectives in countries like Burma and Iran. The key focus shall be working with banks to freeze the biggest spoilers out there.
The long-term approach
For the last few years, humanitarian organizations and international officials have extended their efforts, but no practical results were achieved. It may be argued that increasing amounts of aid may create a foreign dependency and discourage the road towards achieving self-sufficiency.
The international community and South Sudan’s government must understand that peace efforts in South Sudan must come from within. To do so, the inclusion of young voices in the dialogue process can be a potential step towards peace efforts.
Since the intensified armed cattle raiding and abductions in certain areas, young people were driven into creating organized militia to protect their homes. Exclusion from the local peace process has made them choose violence as their only option.
Women should also be included in the peace process. Analysis of global peace processes has proven that the inclusion of women in peace processes can lead to a 20 percent increase in chances of an agreement lasting at least two years.
Achieving peace and stability in South Sudan will be a challenging and complex process. It will demand trustworthy intermediaries who can work on the concerns of local communities and link them to the national level.
Taking a long-term approach, making clear goals, and including the voices and views of the whole cross-section of society can yield a peaceful future for South Sudan.
The authors are doing their Masters in Development Studies at the National University of Science and Technology. The views expressed in this article are their own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.