South Sudan became the world's newest nation on 9 July 2011.
Five years on, half the population live below the poverty line and only 55% have access to safe drinking water as post-independence violence grips the country.
More than 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes, with 646,000 fleeing into neighbouring countries while the rest are displaced within South Sudan's borders.
Older people's needs
The crisis in South Sudan is having a serious impact on older men and women's wellbeing and mental health.
In May 2016, we interviewed 100 older women and men in South Sudan and found a shocking 83% feared for their safety due to the ongoing violence and threat of attack (PDF - 1.2mb).
Many are deeply affected by the loss of loved ones. A 64-year-old man said he felt depressed all the time after losing his immediate relatives in the conflict. He has no belongings and being in the camp alone has made him anxious about his future.
Life in the camps: Mary's voice
(c) Samir Bol/HelpAge International
"My feet are swollen and I’ve lost my sight. It's hard for me to enjoy life. I'm too weak to go to the market or visit friends. I can’t even cross the nearby road because there’s too much traffic. It's become risky for me to go out and about.
"Because of the crisis we live in tents in poor conditions and I worry because where I live is very insecure.
"Living away from home at my age means I can’t be comfortable and be at peace. All I want is for stability to return to my village so I can go home and be happy.
"All the wars in my lifetime have affected me, but this one is the worst. It’s been so brutal.
"Blind, deaf and older people have been killed. Even the young aren’t spared. All my children have been killed, so now my granddaughter is caring for me."
What we are doing
In South Sudan, we are working through our local affiliate, the South Sudan Older People's Organization (SSOPO), to support older people affected by the ongoing conflict in South Sudan. We are helping older men and women in Juba and Central Equatorial State, including in camps for internally displaced people.
We work in partnership with SSOPO to:
- provide essential age-friendly mats, blankets, mattresses, solar lamps and hearing aids
- improve access to water, food, shelter and healthcare
- host eye camps for older people with visual impairments
- provide psycho-social counselling
- establish social centres for older people where they can feel safe in the camps
- age-proof latrines with handrails
- set up older people's monitoring groups trained to watch out for older people's rights and access to essential services
- train local and international humanitarian organisations to better cater for the needs of older people.
In the near future, we will contribute to the reduction of older people's hunger and poverty by promoting sustainable food production and alternative livelihoods for 6,000 vulnerable households in South Sudan's Warrap state.
We are also working together with local partners to build long-term disaster resilience of highly vulnerable people in Warrap.
Supporting South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia
More than 225,000 people from South Sudan have fled into Ethiopia since the conflict began. We have been helping the older men and women who have fled and now live in refugee camps close to the border in the Gambela region.
Our response so far has included:
- identifying 1,000 of the most vulnerable older people and people with disabilities to support
- training 40 home-based carers to provide basic healthcare and psychosocial support to older people and people with disabilities, who each care for at least ten bed ridden people
- setting up two older people's groups, each with 25 people, to provide support and information to other older people in the camps.
Read about the support we are giving older people in a blog about our work Ethiopia's Gambela region.