In the following article, Julian Omidi discusses the conflict in South Sudan.
Since civil war erupted in South Sudan in December of 2013, thousands of people have fled to refugee camps in the Sudan and to the United Nations base, leaving their homes, all of their possessions and their livelihoods. The hundreds of thousands of refugees are facing additional crises, as humanitarian organizations believe that, as fields go unplowed and crops are left to rot, millions could starve. Moreover, the violence has grown to such an extent that there is no one who isn’t considered a target – including aid workers and people convalescing in hospitals.
The fighting is atrocious. The soldiers, of both the national army and the anti-government forces are conducting their battles in particularly brutal fashion. Hospitals have been ransacked, and patients beaten, raped and killed in their beds. According to the organization Doctors without Borders, the attacks on hospitals is a part of a strategy meant to completely debilitate entire communities down to the most helpless. Entire hospitals have been burned to the ground, and those that remain standing are ransacked, with most of the valuable supplies either stolen or rendered utterly unusable. The volunteer physicians have been forced to flee to the bush for their own safety.
The soldiers have been destroying civilian homes and livestock in addition to the killings. The people will likely continue to suffer from the conflict for years to come, even after the active fighting has stopped. The refugees are vulnerable to any number of infectious diseases, and with medical aid being actively targeted by fighting forces, the casualties from illness could be massive.
South Sudan is an extremely poor nation, with a huge segment of the population on the verge of going hungry even when there is no active warfare. The infrastructure, previously weak, has been destroyed since the conflict, and necessary provisions will have a great deal of difficulty being delivered long after the fighting stops.
Although a cease-fire agreement was signed in January, it has been observed by neither side. Doctors without Borders were stationed in Leer, the hometown of the former Vice-President and rebel leader Riek Machar. Because Mr. Machar still has relatives living in Leer, the national army has specifically made it a target, killing civilians and plundering thousands of homes, and making it impossible for the aid workers to provide needed medical care.
The regions of Sudan and South Sudan have been locked in conflict for more than 50 years. The Second Civil War fostered a generation of Sudanese “Lost Boys,” who were orphaned children (boys and girls) and former child soldiers. Many of these children received asylum in other countries, and have since grown up to be advocates for the people of their former nation.
There are Sudanese people who, in middle age, have never known a life that wasn’t threatened or compromised by war. It is unclear how this conflict will resolve itself, but since the region has known nothing but war for more than a half century, the sad fact is that there will likely always be some measure of unrest in that region. Hopefully, the returning “Lost Boys,” (many of whom received educations in the United States and Europe) will help their nation overcome its strife, and give their countrymen and women the first glimmer of hope for a peaceful world that they might have ever had.
 Kulish, Nicholas: Reports of South Sudan Fighting, Despite Pact, Prompt Worry and Warnings New York Times 2/12/2014 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/13/world/africa/fighting-persists-in-south-sudan-despite-pact-and-aid-groups-issue-warnings.html