South Sudan

  • Fighting has ravaged South Sudan for the past three-and-a-half years. More than six million people – 45 percent of the population – are facing extreme hunger. As many as 7.5 million people now need humanitarian assistance. More than 1 million of these people are children who are acutely malnourished. On top of this, as many as 3.8 million people have fled their homes; with more than 2 million seeking safety in neighbouring countries like Uganda, where there are now 1 million South Sudanese refugees.

Inside East Africa's massive locust infestation

Taking advantage of favourable breeding conditions, locusts hit farmers and herders in areas already reeling from climate shocks.

Desert locust infestations have moved across Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, and are now entering areas of northern Uganda. The insects are also threatening Sudan and South Sudan, and there are reports of locust swarms now in Tanzania.

map of affected areas
Map of affected areas. Credit: UN Food and Agriculture Organization

The desert locust is among the most dangerous migratory pests in the world: A large desert locust plague can contain up to 58 million individuals per square mile, with half a million locusts weighing approximately one ton. One ton of locusts eats as much food in one day as about 10 elephants, 25 camels or 2,500 people.

"We depend on livestock and if there is no fodder for our livestock, life will be difficult for us, we ask for help urgently," said Mohammed Hassan Abdille, a farmer from Bura Dhima in Tana River, Kenya. This is the worst locust crisis in 70 years for Kenya alone.

The locusts have hit the region after countries there were affected by huge droughts and in some areas flash floods. There are currently 22.8m people facing severe food insecurity in these countries following consecutive failed rainy seasons, unusual floods, and storms.

The fast-moving locust swarms have been made worse by the climate crisis because they are feeding on new vegetation, the result of unusual weather patterns. They are devastating pastures and grasslands and could ruin new food crops during the March-to-July growing season.

Oxfam's Response

Oxfam is gearing up its humanitarian operations and will work closely with local partners and communities. Program staff in the region report they aim to reach more than 190,000 of the most vulnerable people with cash assistance, livestock feed, seeds, and health services.

In Somalia, together with local partners, Oxfam intends to assist 11,670 households of the most vulnerable people. In Kenya, Oxfam will work in seven of the 13 affected counties to assist 3,000 households in the first phase of operations, and another 5,000 in the second. In Ethiopia, Oxfam aims to reach another 5,000 households with similar aid. Oxfam will need to secure more than €4.6 million (£3.8 million) to mount this response.

Unusual rains advance breeding

This outbreak has been exacerbated by climate change. Cyclones that struck the Arabian Peninsula last year created ideal conditions for desert locusts to multiply. The swarms crossed to the Horn of Africa, where unusually heavy rains late last year created favorable breeding conditions. Heavy rain leads to growth of vegetation in arid areas, providing locusts with more food, and the conditions needed to develop and reproduce.

You can help Oxfam respond to the locust crisis in East Africa.

Five things you need to know about Africa's locust crisis

1. What is a locust and how do they live?

Locusts are a type of grasshopper that live for only 3 months. They generally live quiet, solitary lives – until they change their behaviour and form massive ravenous swarms that can migrate over long distances, flying up to 150 km per day. Swarms can contain up to 10 billion individuals, devastating local farms and livelihoods as all of them migrate.

2. Why is this a crisis?

This is the worst locust crisis in 70 years for Kenya alone. One of the alarming reasons why is because locust adults can eat their own weight every day. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a swarm the size of Paris will consume the same amount of food in a single day as half the population of Mali, Niger and France, respectively. If environmental conditions remain suitable, the swarms could grow 500 times bigger by June, destroying valuable pasture and food supplies across parts of Ethiopia and Kenya and could also put South Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti at risk, making it the worst locust infestation in 25 years.

The last major locust crisis was in West Africa in 2003-05 and cost $2.5 billion in harvest losses, according to the UN.

“We depend on livestock and if there is no fodder for our livestock, life will be difficult for us, we ask for help urgently,” said Mohammed Hassan Abdille, a Kenyan farmer.

swarm of locusts in africa
Desert locusts have swarmed into Kenya from Somalia and Ethiopia, destroying farmland. Photo: FAO/Sven Torfinn

3. How is this locust crisis related to climate change?

The last five years have been hotter than any other since the industrial revolution. Studies have linked a hotter climate to more damaging locust swarms, leaving Africa, which is home to 20 of the world’s fastest-warming countries, disproportionately affected.

However, locusts also thrive in wet conditions and the amount of rain that fell on the Horn of Africa between October to December 2019 was up to 400 per cent above normal. These heavy rains were caused by the Indian Ocean dipole, which is also accentuated by climate change.

4. How is this locust crisis affecting local communities?

The infestation is affecting communities across East Africa, including Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya – three countries absolutely devastated by severe droughts and flooding in recent years. Now the livelihoods of more than 13 million people, who are already experiencing severe food shortages as a result of climate-related weather extremes, are under threat once again.

woman in locust swarm africa
A woman stands among a swarm of locusts, trying to chase them away. Photo: FAO/Sven Torfinn

5. What is Oxfam doing to help and how can I help?

Oxfam aims to reach over 190,000 of the most vulnerable people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia with cash assistance, livestock feed, seeds and health services. Our teams believe that infestations are also likely across South Sudan and Sudan, so preparations are already under way to mount a response to this crisis.

You can help by donating to help affected communities across the region. The livelihoods of some of the world’s most vulnerable people are under severe threat so we need your support!

South Sudan: What it means to love yourself

You can keep girl from school, but you can’t keep a girl from dreaming. Oxfam teamed up with photojournalist Andreea Campaneau to bring the hopes of young women in Nyal into focus. She taught them basic photography skills, so they could learn to document their own stories.

young woman smiling
Rose, 16, is one of the Noura Nyal Kids, a group of young women from Nyal, South Sudan. Photo: Noura Nyal Kids/Oxfam

According to 2017 reports, South Sudan is the worst place in the world for girls’ education. As many as 73% of school-age girls don’t even get to attend primary school. In South Sudanese society, there is an expectation that women are defined by marriage, rather than education or career. Oxfam research found that in Nyal—a town in the northern part of the country--in particular, rates of early and forced marriage are among the highest in the world.

The young women Campaneau worked with refer to their collective as “Noura Nyal”—Noura” meaning “love yourself’ in the Nuer language. They shared their desires to leave domestic sphere, become educated, and share in the same opportunities as their brothers. Read their aspirations below in their own words.

Mary, 16

Photo: Noura Nyal Kids/Oxfam

“I want to be a ruler one day. I want to be a queen, a strong queen. Right now, I feel like playing the jumping rope makes me strong. That’s why I love playing it and I want to have my picture taken with it.”

Nyadak, 16

Photo: Noura Nyal Kids/Oxfam

“I am 16, but I have never been to school. This is why I want my picture to be taken in a classroom, next to a blackboard. I live a in small island off the main town of Nyal, and it would take for me at least an hour to go from that island to the school in the main town.

“The boys in the island still get to go to school. Their parents would send them. But, as a girl, I have to stay in the island, help with the household chores, and sometimes look for food in the swamps like fish and water lilies.”

Nyakuma

Photo: Noura Nyal Kids/Oxfam

“At night, after a hard day of hard work, fetching water, cleaning the house, and cooking, I always stop and think about what I want to do when I grow up. I want to be a doctor so I can help the sick people.

I also want to be a driver. I want to drive my own pick-up car so I can see places outside Nyal. I want to drive to different corners of South Sudan and meet new people.

I hope I will be able to finish school. I also hope that there will finally be peace in my country so that girls like me can have an opportunity to do business. I hope for peace because it means I can drive safely across the country without fear of being attacked.”

Rose, 16

Photo: Noura Nyal Kids/Oxfam

“School is everything to me. It’s a very special place because I am surrounded by other kids like me and we get to play my favorite sport, which is volleyball. In school, I can see that I can be a leader because other kids look up to me. I am good in a lot of subjects, especially science, so other kids follow my lead. I know that if I finish school, I can be who I want to be. And I want to be a pilot. I want to be a pilot, like those men driving those big planes, coming to Nyal to deliver goods… maybe even become a pilot who travels the world to see different places.

I love school and how it makes me feel. When I arrive home, I need to start cleaning the house, do the laundry, fetch water from the borehole, cook. Sometimes, I envy my brothers when I see them play outside with their friends. As the girl in the family, I have so many responsibilities that I can’t even do my homework. I hope I don’t have to marry; that could mean I won’t have time to go to school.”

Grace, 16

Photo: Noura Nyal Kids/Oxfam

“I love Nyal, but I feel like Nyal can be better. If there’s peace in the country, maybe Nyal can be better, and then the situation will also be better for us girls living here.”

Spreading the love for the Noura Nyal Kids

These photos taken by the Noura Nyal Kids were displayed as part of Oxfam’s “Love Yourself: the Girls of Nyal, South Sudan” exhibit at Photoville NYC in the USA in September 2019. Oxfam America asked people who stopped by the exhibit to write a letter of encouragement to the young women in the series. Hundreds of visitors participated, and in October, they shipped the letters to Nyal.

Letters from visitors at Photoville NYC to the Noura Nyal Kids. Photo: Oxfam

One letter reads: "Your voice, your vision is so needed. We see you. We hear you. We need to keep speaking through your art. Keep going. Keep creating. Keep being exactly who you are!"

Help Oxfam’s shops celebrate National Book Lovers Day

Celebrate National Book Lovers Day with us!

As well as Oxfam’s local shops throughout the island of Ireland selling donated books, we also have five dedicated Oxfam Books stores bursting with must-reads and covering all genres: Rathmines and Parliament Street in Dublin; Ann Street and Botanic Avenue in Belfast; and French Church Street in Cork.

We hear from our retail team, who are ready to help you source a bargain from the varied range of book titles available while you are in-store.

Oxfam Ireland’s Head of Retail Michael McIlwaine

Book shops are special places and Oxfam is extra special, because every book donated and purchased in-store means a positive change in the life of someone who really needs it overseas.

Oxfam shops are so familiar on our high streets that it's easy to forget how much good they do. By buying and donating books, CDs and DVDs and other goods, you are helping raise vital funds for Oxfam’s work from emergency responses to long-term development programmes.

If you spend just €5/£5 on books in an Oxfam shop, Oxfam can provide a month’s food for two people affected by the present hunger crisis affecting millions of people in South Sudan, Yemen and Ethiopia; €25/£25 can help a family of six with food for two months.

So on this National Book Lovers Day, take some time out and treat yourself, while helping others. Why not browse and buy in-store – or bring along some books to donate – to make a real difference by helping to raise funds for Oxfam’s life-saving work. You’ll be helping vulnerable people in poverty turn a new page in their lives.

Barth Bialek, Manager of the Oxfam Books in Rathmines, Dublin

Like all the Oxfam Books stores, we have science and natural history, spirituality and philosophy, classical literature, Irish fiction, travel guides and travel writing, crime and thrillers, fantasy and horror, biographies, sport, health and medicine, non-fiction, gardening and cooking, along with children’s books, audio books, music books, drama, poetry and sheet music – plus lots more besides!

To mark National Book Lovers Day, we have a special offer on fiction/novels, offering any two for €5.00, and that will run until Sunday.

Chris Scott, Manager of the Oxfam Books in Botanic Avenue, Belfast

You’ll also find collectable and antiquarian books. Past donations include a book dating back to 1912 about the Titanic along with a Bible from 1587, the year that Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded. Call in and see what you might discover!

Christine Kostick, Manager of the Oxfam Books in Parliament Street, Dublin

We stock thousands of great quality second-hand books and music, with everything from Plato to Peppa Pig and from Nietzsche to New Order. Explore our wide-range of book genres and browse through our CDs, DVDs, classical sheet music and vinyl.

Eleanor Preston, Manager of the Oxfam shop in French Church Street, Cork

We have a wide selection of page-turners. You’ll find fiction best-sellers, literary classics, sci-fi thrillers plus lots more! We also have a music collection and DVDs. Donations of all of these items are gratefully accepted.

Niall Browne, Manager of the Oxfam Books in Ann Street, Belfast

No matter what genre you’re into, there are plenty of great reads waiting to be discovered in-store. We have ‘a wee bit of everything’, from modern fiction to military history and lots more besides. There’s also the occasional first edition, rare book, collector’s item or signed copy. Come in and have a browse!

To find the local Oxfam store nearest to you, visit the website at www.oxfamireland.org/shops

The world has turned its back on South Sudan

Oxfam has been working in South Sudan for over 30 years. Since 2017, we have been responding to a deepening emergency, reaching over 500,000 people across South Sudan with life-saving aid. We also implement long-term development projects to advance gender justice and support people to build resilient livelihoods to help beat poverty now and into the future. In this blog, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland, Jim Clarken, reflects on his recent trip there.

South Sudan - A Country in Crisis

South Sudan is a country in crisis – a country on the brink of what could well become the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. Yet tragically, for the people of this young nation, their ongoing plight has failed to make the headlines.

For more than four years, the people of South Sudan have been caught up in a brutal civil war. The violence has had a devastating impact on the country’s citizens, millions of whom are suffering from extreme hunger as a result.

More than 4 million people have fled their homes since war broke out in December 2013. And last year alone, some 700,000 people fled South Sudan to neighbouring countries – that means that in 2017, more than one person fled the country every minute.

When I visited South Sudan earlier this month, I met many people whose lives have been turned upside down by the ongoing conflict. I spoke to women grieving for their dead children, families who have had to flee their homes and farmers forced to abandon their land – ordinary people, who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves caught up in the crisis.

Oxfam Ireland CEO Jim Clarken speaks with local fisherman in Nyal, South Sudan. Credit: Ben Clancy/Oxfam Ireland

People can no longer protect themselves and their families from the destabilising impact of war. There are battles on every front. Inflation rates are so high that the price of even basic foodstuffs is beyond the reach of families. Meanwhile, farmers who have had no choice but to leave their land are missing out on harvests – leaving the country’s food stocks at dangerously low levels.

In February of last year, famine was declared in two counties – Leer and Mayendit. At that time, 100,000 people were facing famine, and one million more were on the brink. A strong humanitarian response has undoubtedly kept famine at bay but the need for aid is more urgent than ever. In fact, an estimated 1.6 million more people are now more at risk than when famine was declared in 2017. And while the United Nations World Food Programme has been carrying out food drops in South Sudan, the supplies aren’t enough for the population which finds itself in a race against time.

During my visit I travelled to the islands around Nyal in Unity State, which have seen a large influx of people fleeing the violence. There I met many people who have been displaced and are now in a dire situation. Many arrived with nothing but the clothes on their backs, joining countless others with shared experiences. It had taken one group of women I spoke to seven days to reach safety. Having endured the harrowing and terrifying journey, they finally got the chance to grieve the children they had lost along the way.

With the support of Irish Aid, Oxfam Ireland is on the ground in Nyal, providing canoes to bring the sick and vulnerable from the islands to access life-saving aid and health care. We have also set up community gardens in the region, which enable people to grow their own food, or sell it to earn an income. And our protection teams are working with girls and women to ensure their safety in a new and unfamiliar environment.

Villagers of RAFONE island gather to meet Oxfam staff and discuss the progress they’ve made since receiving aid. Credit: Ben Clancy/Oxfam Ireland

Yet, despite our best efforts, the humanitarian situation remains dire – and it’s getting worse by the day. With other stories dominating the global headlines, I fear that South Sudan will be forgotten.

There is an onus on all of us to make sure the plight of this young nation is no longer ignored.

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