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Focus on Famine: 'We can't afford to be hopeless'

Members of the South Sudanese diaspora in Canada watch the world’s youngest country descend into abyss.

A South Sudanese girl, Elizabeth Kegi, receives treatment at Al Shabbab Hospital in Juba, South Sudan.

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A South Sudanese girl, Elizabeth Kegi, receives treatment at Al Shabbab Hospital in Juba, South Sudan.

There are times when Emmanuela Bringi switches into panic mode — like when phone lines are cut off and she’s unable to reach her relatives in South Sudan.

“You’re always fearing the worst,” said Bringi, a South Sudanese-Canadian in London, Ont. She’s especially concerned about her wheelchair-bound grandmother who has diabetes and lives on her own in a country ravaged by constant interethnic conflict and a famine crisis.

“She can’t even get access to health care because there are no clinics,” she said, adding that many others have died from lack of health care and food. “It has become so normal to hear people talk about losing a family member, as if death is something that’s just supposed to happen. It’s not.”

Read more from Metro's Focus on Famine series:

Toronto-based pop singer and model Amanie Aman, whose family came to Canada in the 1990s.

Eduardo Lima / Metro

Toronto-based pop singer and model Amanie Aman, whose family came to Canada in the 1990s.

The United Nations has already declared a full-blown famine in two counties in Unity State, and nearly two-thirds of the country’s entire population is food insecure. The situation is a direct result of the long-standing conflict that has killed thousands and forced nearly four million people out of their homes, making them unable to work the fields or tend to cattle.

Even humanitarian intervention isn’t spared. Just last weekend, six aid workers were killed in an ambush outside the capital city of Juba. Since 2013, at least 79 aid workers have lost their lives in South Sudan, according to the UN.

As they watch the world’s youngest country descend into abyss, members of the South Sudanese diaspora in Canada are running campaigns to contribute to relief efforts.

“Our morale is down but we can’t afford to be hopeless,” said Joseph Kau, a student in Toronto struggling to send remittances to his two sisters and a brother in the country’s south.

Toronto-based pop singer and model Amanie Aman, whose family came to Canada in the 1990s, believes the best solution to the famine lies in ending the chronic circle of violence.

“They need to stop the fighting,” she said of President Salva Kiir and his main archrival Riek Machar. “That’s when they’ll be able to allocate proper funds towards actually feeding the people and allowing help and aid to come in.”

How you can help:

The South Sudanese diaspora across the country are leading efforts to collect funds and donate.

  • The South Sudanese community in the GTHA will hold a fundraising event on May 20, at Howard Johnson Hotel in Kitchener. unicef.ca/stopthefamine
  • Action Against Hunger runs emergency food and nutrition programs inside South Sudan, plus some interventions on livelihoods and water and sanitation. To get involved or donate, visit actioncontrelafaim.ca/donate
  • World Vision is the biggest implementing partner of the World Food Program in East Africa. Private donations can be made at worldvision.ca

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