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Catholic groups aid South Sudan refugees

A war in South Sudan is sending thousands of refugees across the border into northern Uganda, and now Catholic agencies—along other Christian charities—have moved to provide assistance.

At the center of the relief efforts are nearly 1 million refugees who fled torture, killing, rape, and other abuses, and are now living in several sprawling displaced-persons camps in the East Africa nation. Each day, more refugees arrive at the settlements, putting pressure on local resources. The war in Africa’s newest nation is now in its fifth year and hope of finding a solution seems dim, in spite of the opposing parties signing peace agreements.

The situation of these refugees is compelling. Take, for example, the teenage girl who must take care of her siblings because she does not know where their parents are, or the numerous children who have told the agencies that their parents were killed or lost on the way.

But even as these developments point to a tragedy of huge proportions, it has not been lost on analysts that the international community may not be doing enough to help the migrants; many have questioned the rest of the world’s commitment to addressing the root causes of the refugee movement and to providing enough financial resources for aid work.

Funding shortfalls mean the refugees cannot access basic services, said Amnesty International in a June 2017 report. The report warns that rich nation are failing to help Uganda support the South Sudanese refugees.

Agencies point to severe underfunding in the midst of the crisis. In 2016, for example, the humanitarian response only received 40 percent of the $251 million requested, which compromised the ability of the agencies to provide sufficient aid.

But it is against this background that relief agencies are putting words into action by providing what aid they can. These include Catholic agencies such as Caritas, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and the UK’s Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD). These groups are working alongside Christian charities such as World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Finn Church Aid, Danish Church Aid, and the Lutheran World Relief.

From providing basic items such as sleeping mats, blankets, medical relief, and female sanitary supplies to undertaking complex projects such as schools and long-term water and sanitation systems, the footprints of these groups are highly visible.

According to John Bosco Komakech Aludi, the Caritas director for the Archdiocese of Gulu in Uganda, Caritas is helping refugee households to grow their own food by providing seeds and farming tools, while providing capital for start-up businesses. It is also working on water sanitation and hygiene projects.

Read more at Catholic World Report.

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