HelpAge International has implored both the UNSG and President Salva Kirr of South Sudan that it is in the best interest of the displaced civilians and government that the Protection of Civilian (POCs) Camps scattered around the country be retained.
In a press statement, Rama Hansraj, HelpAge International, Country Director, South Sudan also pleaded that older persons’ needs and wellbeing be prioritised by both the UN and the South Sudan government in their long-term humanitarian response strategies. Older persons, more than any demographic group has emerged as one of the most vulnerable in the conflict.
“Because of their age, the older persons could not escape when violence flared up, so they remained at home with devastating effects. They have recorded highest number of fatalities outside those seen in the combat zones. They have also suffered the highest number of injuries and faced unimaginable levels of starvation, malnutrition and avoidable diseases,” said Rama. In addition, she said, the older persons in the villages and the UN-run POCs have also taken upon themselves the burden of caring for children in the absence of their parents despite living in deplorable conditions without care facilities.
Yet, said Rama, there is no specific interventions for older persons and their specific needs – especially nutrition, health, wash, and livelihoods. Currently, all these programme interventions focus on child, women and young people. Recent study by HelpAge and partners in the POCs disclose alarming rates of malnutrition among the older persons.
According to HelpAge International, the current economic situation will worsen unless some social protection mechanisms targeting older persons get prioritized by the government and humanitarian actors.
“It is our considered view that lack of information to the displaced persons on country-wide security situation, utilities and the displaced family members will lead to more vulnerability in terms of the well-being of the older persons which will directly affects their coping capacities,” she said. She also urged for the government to tap into the potential of older persons on conflict resolution and peace building in the communities.
South Sudan, Africa’s youngest nation has since 2013 experienced a civil war forcingmillions of citizens into either in exile or made to live in internally displaced camps. Humanitarian agencies responding to the crisis believe that as many as 4.6 million people might have been displaced of whom 2.6 million face severe food shortages and high malnutrition rates. Among theme thousands of older women and men