Disasters Threaten South Sudan, Central African Republic

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Dear Friend,

Responding to emergencies is one of the most important jobs we have at Catholic Relief Services. Many are high-profile events covered extensively in the media, like the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the earthquake in Haiti or Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. But many are events you’ve likely never heard of—local flooding or storms or violence just as devastating as the ones that draw widespread attention.

Working with our local partners around the world—often Caritas and other Church organizations—CRS spreads the bounty of your generosity to those forced from their homes or in need of food, water and other necessities through no fault of their own.

The spotlight usually falls on disasters that happen suddenly—like an earthquake or a typhoon. The suddenness is part of the story, part of the drama, part of what makes it so compelling to news organizations and to viewers and readers.

What often receives far less attention, though, are what we call slow-onset emergencies. They don’t strike all at once like disasters that make the ground shake or the waters rise or the wind blow. But they are just as devastating.

I want to call your attention to two coming disasters. Both are man-made—caused by escalating conflict.

The Central African Republic has been in turmoil for more than a year, after a coup displaced the government. Unspeakable violence brought instability and insecurity to most of the country, a landlocked nation of 4.5 million that lies between the Congo, Cameroon, Chad and South Sudan.

The Catholic Church and other churches have provided refuge to tens of thousands of people of all faiths. CRS has worked to help people forced from their homes. But now a hunger crisis looms. Because of the fighting and insecurity, few farmers have been able to plant seeds. In a country where people live off the land, this could be disastrous.

Neighboring South Sudan faces a similar problem. Although most of the violence there is confined to a small part of the country, it has prevented farmers from planting crops. Meanwhile, a drought is threatening.

Many in the media have written off South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, as a failure. We know from being there—on the ground—that it is not. South Sudan is full of vibrancy and hope, and its people are eager to get on with the job of building their country. And we are with the South Sudanese as they strive for peace. Indeed, CRS has been able to resume work in the relatively calm Jonglei State, which was wracked by conflict not long ago. Still, when harvest time comes and there are no crops, food shortages will be intense.

I don’t know if you will hear much about the hunger crises in Central African Republic or South Sudan in the news. Violence attracts much more attention than crop failure.

But whether or not they have the media’s attention, they have ours. And we know they have yours. Because CRS is there, you are there: helping and caring for the people of Central African Republic and South Sudan in their time of need. You will be there as they get back on their feet, establish peace and start to build—or rebuild—their lives, their families, their communities and their nations.

You are there because you know the people of Central African Republic and South Sudan are our neighbors. And as Jesus told us in Matthew 22: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

May blessings overflow,

Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO