Trócaire Blogs


February 24, 2017

Aid agencies in South Sudan warn that funds are urgently needed to stop the spread of famine

27 humanitarian agencies working in South Sudan, including Trócaire, have warned that unless substantial funds are immediately provided to those working on the ground, organisations will struggle to stop famine spreading across the country in the next few months.

This statement follows Monday’s declaration of famine in parts of the country.   

The UN has appealed for $1.6 billion to cope with the crisis and pledges have already been made in recent days by the UK (£100m) and the EU (82m Euros) - but the money is needed urgently for those on the ground before the rains start in April, which would make the delivery of aid even more difficult.

The aid organisations say that if their requests are not urgently acted upon, the number of people going hungry could increase to more than 5.5 million by July 2017.

Trócaire’s team in South Sudan is providing emergency food and water to people. We are also providing safety and emergency relief to South Sudanese refugees who have fled to camps in Uganda.

“The people I met in villages are in urgent need of help,” said Trócaire’s Sean Farrell. “Without aid, they will not survive the coming months. The situation is really dire – already 100,000 people are confirmed to be in famine but millions more are on the brink.

“Farming families in the region are used to experiencing hungry seasons in between harvests but the situation facing them today is unprecedented. They have run out of food supplies five months earlier than normal and have no way to produce food until August at the earliest.”

The ongoing conflict in South Sudan has displaced millions of people and the dire situation has been compounded by a devastating drought.

Find out more about our response to the Extreme Hunger Crisis and what you can do


The following 27 aid agencies working in South Sudan signed the statement:

  • ACF
  • American Refugee Council
  • CAFOD & Trócaire in Partnership
  • Care
  • Christian Aid
  • Cordaid
  • Deutsche Welthungerhilfe
  • DCA
  • DRC
  • Finn Church Aid
  • International Aid
  • Intersos
  • IRC
  • Mercy Corps
  • Norwegian Church Aid
  • Oxfam
  • Plan International
  • Premiere Urgence International
  • Relief International
  • Save the Children
  • Solidarites
  • Swiss Church Aid
  • Tearfund
  • Warchild
  • World Relief
  • World Vision
  • ZOA South Sudan

Joseph Malis with his daughter in Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp in Uganda

Caption: Joseph Malis, 39, photographed with his daughter in his tent in Bidi Bidi refugee camp in northern Uganda. Malis fled his home in Gimono village, South Sudan, after government soldiers burned it down and killed three people there in August. Malis already harvested the first of his crop of cow-peas, grown from seeds donated by Caritas, which he used to supplement the family’s diet of maize and beans. Photo by Tommy Trenchard for Caritas


February 16, 2017

70 million hit by extreme food shortages

Extreme food shortages are occurring across a number of African countries, with large areas of East Africa worst affected.

Tabu Ruth at Bidi Bidi refugee camp

South Sudanese refugee Tabu Ruth brings water to her father outside the family’s new home in Bidi Bidi camp in Uganda. Photo by Tommy Trenchard for Caritas.

The severity and scale of the crisis is unprecedented in recent decades. 

Conflict and drought have combined to leave 17 million people in East Africa alone requiring immediate emergency food aid.

The two worst affected countries in the region are Somalia and South Sudan, but parts of Ethiopia and Kenya are also badly hit.

How bad the situation gets will largely depend on whether the rains come over the next few weeks. However, even if they do come, there will still be a five month gap when people have little or nothing to eat before the next harvest.

How did it get this bad?

Ongoing conflict in South Sudan and Somalia has displaced millions of people and severely disrupted the food system.

Climate change is also a huge factor. The region is experiencing a prolonged drought due to the failure of rainy seasons. Without the rain, crops have not grown.

South Sudan – one in three people left hungry

Over 4.5 million people in South Sudan will require emergency food aid over the coming months. As it stands, one in every three people in the country does not have enough food.

An estimated 675,000 people are currently classified as being in emergency.

Somalia – a repeat of 2011?

Over 5 million people in Somalia are in need of emergency aid. The situation threatens a repeat of 2011, when a famine in the country cost the lives of 250,000 people.

At the moment, 320,000 children under age five are acutely malnourished, of which 50,000 are severely malnourished.

What is Trócaire doing?

Trócaire has teams working in all four affected countries – South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. We are bringing emergency food aid into the worst-hit communities and helping people to survive the current crisis.

As needs grow, we want to expand our emergency aid projects.

You can help us donating today

February 13, 2017

A day in the life of Annah

While Annah Boonabana's average day looks busy but well-organised today, just two years ago it was anything but.

Before water taps were installed in her village, Nyakatunga in South West Uganda, Annah (31) used to have to walk for over two hours to collect water each and every day. 

This greatly limited the time she had available for her work at home and at her vegetable plot, as well as the time she had available for her children. 

Because of the long distance involved, Annah's family only had access to a small amount of unsafe water each day for drinking, washing, food preparation and to water crops.

Now Annah’s community has enough fresh water for all its needs - and Annah's family and farm are flourishing. Plus access to clean water means exposure to fewer diseases, helping her family stay healthy.

A lack of clean water can trap people in poverty 

One of the greatest causes of poverty, which is often overlooked, is the lack of access to clean and safe water. 

Uganda has a population of nearly 40 million and eight million of those people do not have access to clean and safe water (that is almost double the population of the Republic of Ireland without safe water). 

Many resort to collecting water from nearby swamps, where the water is dirty and contaminated – spreading water borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery.

This in turn can greatly impact on the health of families and communities, limiting their ability to work or go to school, and channelling the little money they have into covering medical costs. 

Then there is all the time that is lost, the hours spent by women and children each day fetching water from far away sources, and the hard physical cost of carrying heavy jerry cans home over long distances. 

All that could be potentially achieved in that time is lost, not least important activities such as schooling. 

Community led and community owned

While Trócaire gave financial and technical support, the project to pipe water to Nyakatunga village, Rubirizi District, was led by the community itself. 

With support from Irish missionaries Fr Brendan Shannon and Fr Charlie Beirne, and the parish priest in the area Fr David Niwagaba, the community came together and organised. They contributed their labour to dig trenches for piping and set up a water management committee to oversee maintenance of the water pipeline into the future. 

Community members now pay a small fee for their water which is used to buy petrol for the motorised water pump, and surplus money is saved to cover repairs to the pump and piping. Volunteers also attend and maintain the water kiosks. 

Now 3000 people in the community, including Annah and her family, can access clean water piped directly into their village for the first time.

A second phase project is now in motion to extend water access to other neighbouring villages.

Learn more about Trócaire's work in Uganda.

February 07, 2017

Hungry months come early in South Sudan

Trócaire’s Sean Farrell presents a portrait of daily life in Adior County, South Sudan, where he finds extraordinary resilience and kindness amidst the chaos of conflict, displacement and food shortages. 

A little girl walks slowly along the red dusty path. Behind her she pulls a toy – a piece of dark charred wood with two empty perfume bottles playing the role of dolls. The perfume bottles clink together as she walks and she smiles at the music she creates. 

Two old men sit under a large tree. Macer sits in front of his blind friend Magot. It is peaceful but windy, and the dust is blown into their faces. They speak about war sitting on plastic chairs in the shadow of an army truck. It looms over us and indeed over both their lives. 

Elizabeth Adut Yac sits in the shade, looking pensive and worried. She has travelled to this village seeking sanctuary from the fighting that has engulfed parts of South Sudan. She spent eight days fleeing to this village, living every moment in fear that some or all of her five children might die on the journey. 

Mary Nyidhal has six children and struggles every day to feed them. Despite that daily grind, she has taken another family of four into her house who are fleeing the fighting. So now she has more mouths to feed and added struggles every day. She shrugs her shoulders and says we have to do what we can. 

Nyanyom Bec is just five years old. She sits outside a house where her family now live after fleeing the fighting in a neighbouring area. It is noon and it is hot but she has not yet eaten today. Her mother has gone to get water two hours walk away and she is at home alone with her seven-year-old brother and three-year-old sister. They only eat once a day when her parents can collect some wild berries or wild plants. She tells me quietly that she gets really hungry at night time. She is the same age as my little boy, Luka. Their lives could not be more different. 

These are the stories of the people of South Sudan. Five years after celebrating its independence, the country is now gripped by war, fighting, poverty and hunger. 

Some, 2.2 million people have been internally displaced and an additional 1.2 million have fled to neighbouring countries. Crop failure has heaped misery upon misery and now millions survive at the very edges of life. 

Macer & MagotFriends Macer and Magot in Adior County, South Sudan, February 2017

Macer, Magot, Elizabeth, Mary and Nyanyom have been supported by a Trócaire project. Water points, food aid, cooking oil and small simple kitchen utensils. But the need we are seeing is honestly overwhelming. The water points I saw this week are working but already the food has run out. 

In this part of South Sudan, called Adior County, the hungry season is normally June and July when food stocks have been depleted and the new harvest is yet to come. But today is the first day of February and already hunger is evident. It is going to be a long and hard six months until any harvest brings relief. If these people are to survive, food aid and vital life-saving support will be necessary. 

Working with local church groups in South Sudan, we will do what we can, with the funds available to us to reach thousands of families over the coming months. We must respond and every cent here makes a massive difference. 

We will provide food to struggling families in the weeks to come while also distributing seeds and tools for people to plant crops, or the cycle of hunger pangs will simply continue and deepen. 

I sit down with Nyanyom outside her house looking at the empty pot just across the dirt yard. I think of my own kids and what sits on our kitchen table back in Ireland. It’s hard not to. 

And I think of a toy car and my laughing child, as I look at two perfume bottles rattling up the street. 

It’s in our nature and in our humanity to care and love. It is what drives a mother with her children through eight days of fear that I can’t even imagine. And it is what drives an already struggling woman to open her doors to a family fleeing an even worse situation than her own. 

Adior had a population of 15,000 before the war. It now has a population of 26,000. 11,000 people have moved into Adior, being housed, fed and supported as they flee areas consumed by fighting. 

Forty per cent of the community are now displaced people living with families already struggling with their own problems. It is an astounding situation. And it puts Ireland’s fanfare of accepting 4,000 refugees from Syria in context. 

Tomorrow I will go back to a world dealing with immoral executive orders, building up walls and driving people apart through fear. 

Mary, Elizabeth and Nyanyom know nothing of these global events. 

But they know something about love and humanity. If only those gracious gifts came easier to some in power.

January 31, 2017

How Donald Trump's Executive Order counters international law

By Julian Waagensen, Trócaire Policy & Advocacy Adviser

President Trump’s Executive Order on refugees and immigration could be considered to be in breach of international law in several respects. 

As an agency working in countries affected by war, persecution and severe human rights violations, Trócaire is very concerned not only about the impact the order will have on people’s lives but also on the message it sends out to the world about the world’s most vulnerable people. 

Syrian refugee in Lebanon

Houssein, 10 years old, studies on his bed in a camp in Lebanon. He and his family were the first to arrive in the camp from Syria in 2011. (Photo: Isabel Corthier / Caritas)

What has the order done?

1. Suspends the entire US refugee admissions system for 120 days while a review is carried out of vetting systems. The US already had one of the most rigorous vetting regimes in the world, taking 18 to 24 months and requiring interviews and background checks through multiple federal agencies. 

2. Suspends the Syrian refugee program indefinitely. The US accepted 12,486 Syrian refugees in 2016. This contrasts with about 300,000 received by Germany the same year. Since the Syrian civil war began, Turkey has received about 2.7 million refugees, Lebanon 1 million refugees and Jordan 650,000.

3. Bans entry from seven majority-Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – for 90 days. This has barred even legal US residents from re-entry into the country. It also lets the Department of Homeland Security ban more countries at any time.

4. Prioritises refugee claims on the basis of religious persecution. This provision would allow America to prioritise Christians from the Middle East over Muslims. In 2016, the US accepted 37,521 Christian and 38,901 Muslim refugees. Since 2001, the US has accepted nearly 400,000 Christian refugees and 279,000 Muslim refugees.

5. Lowered the total of 2017 refugees from anywhere to 50,000, down from 110,000. It has also ordered a review of states’ rights to accept or deny refugees.

How could this be a violation of international law?

1. Suspending the refugee admissions system could be considered a violations of the Right to Asylum. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) guarantees the right of an individual to seek asylum. Although there is no right to be granted asylum, there is a right to apply for it. By denying asylum seekers access to its territory, the US are denying the right to seek asylum.

2. The ban on entry from seven majority-Muslim countries violates the principle of non-discrimination in the Refugee Convention. By specifically targeting seven named countries, the Executive Order discriminates on the grounds of both religion and country of origin. 

3. Denying people the opportunity to seek asylum and forcing them to return to where they came from can lead to violations under the Refugee Convention, which prohibits expelling or returning a person to a place where he or she could face persecution, torture or inhuman treatment.

Giving hope to the displaced

At a time when a record number of people around the world are displaced by violence, the international community needs to stand behind international law to ensure safety for people who have been forced to flee. 

As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated last weekend in the aftermath of President Trump's Executive Order, "We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope."