Syria’s divided rebels and their foreign backers have been watching in disbelief as the regime gears up for an election to give Bashar al-Assad another presidential mandate despite their uprising.
The British aid charity Oxfam has launched an emergency appeal to raise funds for South Sudan.
One of the world’s newest countries is struggling with the problems of conflict and the threat of famine.
Oxfam said seven million people are at risk of not having enough to eat in the coming months, and the situation is already desperate in some parts of the country.
At least one million people have been forced to flee their homes due to the civil war, leaving their food stocks and animals behind.
Refugee centres are struggling to cope with the influx.
Nigel Timmins, deputy humanitarian director of Oxfam, said: “We are worried that famine is coming, this time of year is when people normally plant their seeds to get a crop and there’s only a single crop a year in South Sudan and if they miss that then we’ll be without regular food supplies for a whole year to come.
“We’re worried that over a million children are in need of nutritional support and we’re also hearing stories of mums who are saying that they themselves are not eating enough to provide breast milk for their own babies. So it’s really desperately sad.”
Oxfam has redeployed some of its staff from the Phillipines and elsewhere, in a bid to reach as many people as possible ahead of the rainy season, when the distribution of food aid around the country will become much more problematic and more costly.
Timmins said: “We’re coming into the rainy season in South Sudan and that becomes a real problem and you become much more dependent on air drops, air supplies, which are very expensive, and many of the air strips in South Sudan also become unusable. Violence and the upcoming rain means there’s a real urgency to doing something now.”
Aid agencies are calling on the international community to pressure all sides in South Sudan to end hostilities between the Dinka and Nuer tribes.
There is some good news – both sides have agreed to suspend hostilities to allow aid workers to move around the country.
UN humanitarian coordinator Toby Lanzer said: “This is probably the most complex environment in which the United Nations is working logistically. And I think that the reassurances that we’ve had from the parties to the conflict that the aid workers and the aid agencies can move around the country and that our trucks can go up and down these roads in the dry season, this is reassuring and if we have the resources we will make it happen.”
Oxfam is hoping its emergency appeal will raise not only funds but the profile of the situation in South Sudan.
A recent conference only raised two-thirds of the US$1.8 billion the United Nations is calling for to deal with the situation, and the funding gap needs to be plugged.