South Sudan Refugees Struggling Spiritually, Physically

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SOUTH SUDAN -- The United Nations Refugee Agency warns that a major humanitarian crisis is now underway in South Sudan.

At least 10,000 additional refugees crossed over the border from Sudan this week and another 50,000 are expected.

With Sudan and South Sudan on the brink of war, a humanitarian crisis is escalating. More than 120,000 people have fled ongoing aerial attacks by Sudan.

And every day, hundreds are pouring into refugee camps in desperate need of food, shelter and water after walking for days in the intense heat.

Yet, in the midst of all the suffering churches are gathering every Sunday morning in the refugee camps -- often with only a tree to shelter them. Pastors are networking together to see how they can meet both the practical and spiritual needs of the thousands of needy people on these camps.

Pastor Rehan meets regularly with other church leaders to plan relief efforts and to pray.

"We need praying for faith in Sudan, and we need praying also for our communities," he said. "With so many people, they are backsliding now because the situation is not good."

CBN News accompanied workers with Samaritan's Purse, one of the few Christian humanitarian organizations helping the refugees.

David Phillips is the charity's country director for South Sudan. He discovered some of the first refugees last year scavenging for food in a remote swamp area.

"We came upon this huge group of 2,000 people that were sleeping under the trees, and we recognized them as refugees because they were carrying their possessions in their arms," he recalled.

"And they were literally digging roots out of the ground and pulling leaves off the trees to find food, because they were completely out of food," Phillips added.

Since then, the refugee camp in Yida where Samaritan's Purse is working has grown to more than 25,000 refugees. Many are on the brink of death.

"They're literally arriving, some of them like walking skeletons, and they have to immediately be taken into therapeutic feed programs or given emergency food rations in order to try to sustain them," Phillips explained.

"We're seeing an increase here of the need here in a very drastic way, and it's happening quickly. New arrivals are sometimes up to 700 a day," he said.

Samaritan's Purse, in partnership with the World Food Programme, is feeding 90,000 sudanese at the Doro and Jamam refugee camps. Each is provided with monthly rations of maize or sorghum, beans and cooking oil.

James Makuei is a member of the food distribution team.

"As a Christian, I have to help these people. It is my mission to help the person who is suffering," he said.

Samaritan's Purse is also providing vital medical help. Dr. Evan Atar oversees the Doro Hospital, the only medical center in the region providing surgeries for the wounded and treatment for malaria and acute malnutrition.

"My motivation is Christ," Atar said.

"One of the most rewarding things is when we see change," health and nutrition coordinator Kelly Now added.

"When Tabitha came, she wasn't eating or drinking anything. She had pneumonia and malaria. We had a tube in her mouth so that she could take the nutrients, and now she's eating and running and playing like a normal child," she said.

Samaritan's Purse United Kingdom Executive Director Simon Barrington warns the Sudanese urgently need international help.

"My heart has been broken by being here," he said. "We need to act now so that these people will get the food, shelter, water and health care that they need."

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Peter Wooding

Peter Wooding

CBN News United Kingdom Correspondent

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