South Sudanese community in Sioux Falls calling for United Nations to aid refugees living in Ethiopia again

South Sudanese community in Sioux Falls calling for United Nations to aid refugees living in Ethiopia again
Published: Sep. 24, 2023 at 7:42 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - South Sudanese immigrants living in Sioux Falls are calling for action from the United Nations to help their friends and family who have fled to Ethiopia. Before South Sudan became independent in 2011, refugees from the Sudanese civil war fled to neighboring countries like Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya. The total number of refugees grew when South Sudan itself became involved in their own civil war beginning in 2013.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or UN Refugee Agency, helped provide food and other aid to the region. Instability in South Sudan has caused a crisis as refugees from Sudan or refugees from South Sudan return to what has been considered an inhospitable environment due to conflict and lack of food. Some refugees are choosing to stay in those neighboring countries as a result. In recent months, the UNHCR suspended sending aid to refugee camps in Ethiopia due to the Ethiopian government diverting much of the aid. The suspension of all the aid leaves refugees stuck without food.

“I think that is a legitimate reason for them,” explained David Jal, an immigrant from South Sudan. “We’re not here to speak on behalf of the UN or Ethiopian government, but we are concerned because the refugees that the food was providing for are dying of starvation. I don’t think they realized the impact this would have for refugees in Ethiopia.”

Jal came to the United States as a refugee nearly thirty years ago. He still has family and friends living in Africa who have been dealing with the recent crisis.

“[Refugees in Ethiopia] have no other way [to get food] other than the ration that the UN is providing for them,” Jal said. “They can go after whoever is diverting the food. They have a right to do that, but at the same time, you cannot leave refugees dying.”

His friend, Goi Yol, originally came to the United States to attend a college in Kentucky around twenty years ago. He moved back to South Sudan after he graduated. In 2015, he came back to the U.S. permanently to live with family who had previously moved to Sioux Falls. He has seen firsthand how South Sudanese immigrants have tried their best to help those in need back in Africa.

“It’s really impacting us members of these communities living in the United States because we’ve been trying to send them money,” said Yol. “That is not enough. Some of them don’t even have relatives here and this has been making a lot of sleepless nights for most of us living here.”

Those sleepless nights are because it’s difficult to stop thinking about their loved ones struggling overseas.

“When you come here, you consider yourself the lucky ones,” Yol stated. “You have a job. You have food on the table. Your kids are eating. You can imagine you yourself before you had come here or the kids that are there with no food. It makes you really think again and say, ‘What is the purpose of living?’ The purpose of living is to provide for yourself and also to provide for others.”

South Sudanese immigrants in the U.S. can only do so much. They’re calling on the UN Refugee Agency to find some way to help. Until they do, Jal and many others continue to field phone calls from people in Ethiopia asking for help. Jal received three calls before 8 a.m. alone.

“There has to be a balance on your part, but at the same time, if someone’s saying, ‘I’m dying. Give me something,’” said Jal. “You cannot just turn your head and say ‘sorry’.”