Update: Wednesday, June 24, late afternoon Congress appointed Molly Phee U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan. Thank you for all your phone calls!
In a just-released report, South Sudan topped the list of the world’s most fragile states for the second year in a row. World Vision’s policy adviser for child protection Jessica Bousquette, shares why it is time we stop just watching these stories, and what critical action advocates can take this week so we are one step closer to there being less of these stories.
“They keep going back and forth to Addis to talk about peace but there is no peace. The whole world is watching and doing nothing and there is still no peace.”
-Elizabeth, age 15
These words spoken last year on a UN base in South Sudan, still ring in my ears as the conflict in South Sudan continues eight months later. Elizabeth, like 800,000 other children in South Sudan, was displaced by fighting that began eighteen months ago. When our team asked children displaced by the conflict last October what they wanted for the future, they overwhelming said “peace”. One boy said, “If there is peace, everything will change.”
In May increased conflict displaced more than 100,000 people and caused humanitarian organizations, like World Vision, to suspend programs in impacted areas. The UN estimates that 650,000 people would not have access to life-saving assistance because organizations could not reach them. Last week World Vision was able to return to parts of Upper Nile and resume serving those who had been impacted by recent fighting.
A recent report from the global food security monitoring body predicts that nearly 40% of the population (4.6 million people) in South Sudan will face severe food shortages in the next few months. In addition to food shortages, shortages of fuel and drinking water are increasing prices across the country and putting strain on families already under pressure. The average household expenditure on food is at 80 percent of household income. Due to conflict, which often results in repeated displacement, many communities have missed the planting season for the second time in eighteen months.
Over the last eighteen months the recruitment of children into armed forces has increased by 40 percent, from 9,000 in December 2013 to 13,000 in May 2015. In only three weeks during May of this year, 129 children were killed in one state, according to UNICEF. 400,000 children are out of school and 600,000 have experienced psychological distress. The need to protect children from violence and exploitation and ensure they receive an education is increasing and urgent. Children, who make up 60 percent of the population South Sudan, are the future leaders, teachers, pastors, and doctors.
The United States has been a generous donor and has worked with humanitarian organizations to meet the increasingly urgent needs of children and their families. But for the sake of the children of South Sudan, the long term goal needs to be peace.
Since August 2014, the United States has been without an ambassador to South Sudan. With a qualified nominee being named in September 2014, there is no reason for this. The U.S. needs a permanent top official in South Sudan to provide the leadership needed for the U.S. to follow through on commitments, promises made, and support efforts to achieve a lasting peace for South Sudan’s children. The nominee, Molly Phee, is a career foreign service officer and her nomination passed unanimously through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The next step is a full Senate vote.
U.S. leadership on South Sudan cannot wait. As the situation in South Sudan becomes more critical, Molly Phee needs to be appointed as soon as possible. This can happen before Congress recesses on June 26, but Senator Mitch McConnell needs to know it is important to people in the U.S.
The United States currently has ambassadors to 190 countries. It is now time we re-appoint an ambassador to the world’s newest country.
Calling is simple and takes less than two minutes. All you have to say is:
“Hello, my name is _____. I’m calling to ask the Senator to schedule a vote for Molly Phee, the nominee for ambassador to South Sudan. The U.S. needs a permanent diplomat in South Sudan to support efforts to achieve a lasting peace for South Sudan’s children. Thank you.”
Senator Mitch McConnell
Phone number: (202) 224-2541
Leave a voicemail if nobody answers.
As few as ten phone calls in one day are enough to cause an office to take notice of an issue. You can help make the children of South Sudan a priority.
Let us know that you called, so we can follow up with the office. Leave a comment below, email us, or share on Twitter (offices also pay attention to social media).
Photo: Warrup, South Sudan. © 2015 World Vision/photo by Jon Warren