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World Vision's Mansfield believes the church has a crucial role in sustaining peace. "In order for peace to take hold it also requires local churches of all denominations and traditional tribal leaders to encourage and actively build peace and reconciliation among communities that have experienced a great deal of brutality," he told CT.

"Many people who fled fighting initially sought safety in the churches which tried their best to meet the humanitarian needs. But even churches could not protect those who sought safety when the fighting arrived on their doorsteps. Those people fled or were attacked, mutilated, raped and killed."

Malakal, South Sudan, was home to 170,000 people until it was torched during the conflict.Image: Courtesy, World Vision, Nadene Ghouri

Malakal, South Sudan, was home to 170,000 people until it was torched during the conflict.

With the amount of food aid coming into South Sudan, there is anxiety about whether food supplies will end up on the black market or be looted by the either side in the conflict. Jeremy Konyndyk, director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development, told the news media that looting by opposition forces is a problem and the South Sudan government is putting too many obstacles in the way of aid delivery. "It is a really extraordinary and outrageous occurrence and it's been driven by very irresponsible behavior by both parties to this conflict," he said in media reports.

World Vision's Mansfield told CT, "We have direct control over the whole provision chain. The government and government opposition have in the recent peace agreement committed to allowing humanitarian agencies the access they need to distribute food.

About 235,000 people are in UN camps inside Sudan. But many Sudanese have fled the country. The UN estimates that 285,000 refugees are in camps in Ethiopia, Kenya, and neighboring nations.

Sparsely populated, South Sudan has 11 million people and is one of poorest and least developed countries worldwide. It includes the Sudd, one the world's largest swamps, twice the size of Massachusetts and populated by thousands of elephants and more than 1 million antelope. It's been called Africa's Eden.

Economically, South Sudan and Sudan rely on oil revenues to fund government operations. There are 5 billion barrels of proven oil reserves.

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