NAIROBI, Kenya—Exposed to extreme violence and living in difficult-to-access parts, a large portion of the population in South Sudan is unable to access basic necessities such as food, water, and healthcare, warns the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
Teresa Murray, MSF Spain’s deputy director of operations, said at a press event in Nairobi that aid workers face a difficult time accessing some areas to deliver medical supplies due to increased insecurity. This, she explained, is threatening the lives of many civilians, among them displaced persons, women, and children.
“There’s already [crisis-level] food insecurity in South Sudan and non-access will exacerbate that further,” Murray said.
It has been seven years now since the country gained independence from Sudan, but five years of fighting have left tens of thousands dead and taken a toll on the nation’s economy.
Humanitarian groups say the fighting has left the world’s youngest nation with a dysfunctional healthcare system and some of the most tragic health indicators in Africa.
According to MSF, infant mortality is at 60 children per 1,000 and maternal mortality is at 789 per 100,000. The WHO reports that 67 out of 80 counties have inadequate or no health care services at all due to dilapidated or destroyed structures.
MSF spokesman Jairo Gonzalez said the some of the regions in the country that face the most severe crisis include Greater Upper Nile state in the north east, as well as the Equatoria regions.
He said malaria remains endemic, while cases of pneumonia are on the rise, raising fears of preventable deaths unless urgent action is taken to reinforce access to treatment in the most high-risk areas.
“At the moment, we have not seen an outbreak but malaria is endemic in South Sudan, and we are in the peak of a rainy season, so cases of malaria are on the extreme,” Gonzalez explained.
According to the medical aid group, malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea account for nearly 80 percent of the country’s most childhood illnesses.
The South Sudanese Ministry of Health estimates that only 44 percent of the population have access to health services.
MSF said the humanitarian situation in the oil-rich country is worsening and urged the international community to continue providing aid for emergency response.
“One of our major challenges is that we have to scale up to fill up the emergency gap and that stretches us,” said Murray.
South Sudan plunged into civil war in 2013 after President Salva Kiir fell out with his then-vice president Riek Machar. Since then, tens of thousands of people have been killed in the fighting. Some 4 million people have also been displaced.