BALTIMORE, MD, June 21, 2017 — Catholic Relief Service (CRS) welcomes the Vatican’s contribution of $200,000 to the people of South Sudan as an affirmation of the important role that the Catholic Church continues to play in the world’s newest nation.
Gripped by drought and ongoing conflict, South Sudan is one of four countries currently facing famine and extreme hunger conditions. More than 20 million people in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen are in need of immediate assistance as they face starvation.
“What is most important, is Pope Francis telling world not to give up on South Sudan, that we all must step up our commitment to help,” said Sean Callahan, CEO and president of CRS, who just visited the country and met with families benefitting from CRS programs. “I can tell you from my visit that there is hope. I saw that when people had peace, they got to work, planting their crops, building homes and roads, building the new nation.”
The Vatican funds will go to help relieve the suffering in South Sudan, where nearly half the population is facing food shortages and displacement due to fighting between political and ethnic factions.
CRS has been active in South Sudan since before it became a nation, working with Church and other partners to help ensure that the referendum on secession from Sudan came off peacefully.
“During the decades of civil war, the Church was often the only functioning institution across large parts of what is now South Sudan,” Callahan said. “Church leaders were among those most responsible for the negotiations that ended the fighting and led to the referendum on the country’s independence. And now, as the country once again seeks peace, the Church is there for the people of South Sudan.”
Since independence, CRS has led a large U.S. government-funded program, primarily in Jonglei State, that has focused on long-term development, including providing food rations to villagers who build roads, schools, dykes and waterways, assets that benefit all community members. The program has been able to pivot to emergency aid in response to the displacement of people due to violence.
“We’ve seen those programs work and make a huge difference in the lives of people in South Sudan. Now is not the time to turn our backs. There’s still hope and we can still get things done.”
CRS has been urging Congress to continue to fund robust foreign aid in countries like South Sudan, at a time when the Administration has proposed cutting –even eliminating- programs that save lives.