Tag Archives: South Sudan

Humanitarian Crisis in South Sudan

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A medical and humanitarian crisis is burgeoning in South Sudan, as hundreds of thousands of people face mass famine after months of deadly conflict.  Julian Omidi discusses the reaction of representatives from Doctors Without Borders to the United Nations peacekeeping response to the devastating events in South Sudan.

In South Sudan, the peacekeeping operation initiated by the United Nations came under critical fire from representatives from the international medical nonprofit Doctors Without Borders, due to the gruesome conditions in the Tomping compound, located in Juba, the capitol of South Sudan.  There are currently 21,000 refugees sheltering in the compound, which has become a massive public health hazard.[1]

The United Nations has worked with Doctors Without Borders providing aid in numerous nations in crisis states, and both organizations have served South Sudan throughout its turbulent history.  Currently, South Sudan is in the middle of a catastrophic humanitarian event, made worse by the rampaging violence.

Nearly 4 million people face starvation, and several hundred thousands find themselves without shelter save what is provided by the United Nations.

Doctors Without Borders has released a statement lambasting the reaction of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (known as Unmiss) during this crisis.  In the statement, the UN is accused of ignoring the pleas to assist with improvements at Tomping, which is currently situated in low ground.  During the rains, latrines were overturned, and the waters flooded the compound with sewage, causing the immediate threat of water-borne illnesses.  The compound is surrounded by barbed wire fencing, and just beyond the fence is higher, dryer ground with warehouse space.

The refugees within the compound are experiencing an overwhelming flood of diarrheal, respiratory, and skin infections all due to the bacteria-laden water in which the inhabitants are situated.  The Doctors Without Borders staff say that such diseases account for over 60 percent of the illnesses reported in the compound.

The fact that the UN has refused to allow the residents to relocate has confounded the relief workers, particularly since better conditions are relatively close by.

Representatives from the UN insist that the camp will be closed by the end of April, and that they acknowledge that the compound has turned into a massive health hazard and have already relocated approximately 1,300 people.

Nevertheless, it is not clear if the remaining refugees can be moved before the rainy season begins.  According to the UN, there is simply not enough space for all of the inhabitants in the Tomping compound, but the aid workers insist that better, dryer conditions are so close by, that they are actually within eyeshot.

In addition to the crisis in sanitation for the Tomping refugees, the displaced residents, unable to tend to crops after facing months of unimaginable violence, could potentially face starvation.  According to the United Nations South Sudan relief coordinating officer, the region needs approximately $230 million in order to combat what could be the most devastating example of mass starvation since the famine in Ethiopia.

By Julian Omidi

 

[1] Gladstone, Rick: U.N. Ignores South Sudan Camp Crisis, Charity Says 4/9/2014 New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/10/world/africa/medical-charity-sharply-criticizes-un-operation-in-south-sudan.html?ref=africa

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Conflict in South Sudan

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In the following article, Julian Omidi discusses the conflict in South Sudan.

Since civil war erupted in South Sudan in December of 2013, thousands of people have fled to refugee camps in the Sudan and to the United Nations base, leaving their homes, all of their possessions and their livelihoods.  The hundreds of thousands of refugees are facing additional crises, as humanitarian organizations believe that, as fields go unplowed and crops are left to rot, millions could starve.  Moreover, the violence has grown to such an extent that there is no one who isn’t considered a target – including aid workers and people convalescing in hospitals.[1]

The fighting is atrocious. The soldiers, of both the national army and the anti-government forces are conducting their battles in particularly brutal fashion. Hospitals have been ransacked, and patients beaten, raped and killed in their beds. According to the organization Doctors without Borders, the attacks on hospitals is a part of a strategy meant to completely debilitate entire communities down to the most helpless. Entire hospitals have been burned to the ground, and those that remain standing are ransacked, with most of the valuable supplies either stolen or rendered utterly unusable.  The volunteer physicians have been forced to flee to the bush for their own safety.

The soldiers have been destroying civilian homes and livestock in addition to the killings.  The people will likely continue to suffer from the conflict for years to come, even after the active fighting has stopped.  The refugees are vulnerable to any number of infectious diseases, and with medical aid being actively targeted by fighting forces, the casualties from illness could be massive.

South Sudan is an extremely poor nation, with a huge segment of the population on the verge of going hungry even when there is no active warfare.  The infrastructure, previously weak, has been destroyed since the conflict, and necessary provisions will have a great deal of difficulty being delivered long after the fighting stops.

Although a cease-fire agreement was signed in January, it has been observed by neither side.  Doctors without Borders were stationed in Leer, the hometown of the former Vice-President and rebel leader Riek Machar.  Because Mr. Machar still has relatives living in Leer, the national army has specifically made it a target, killing civilians and plundering thousands of homes, and making it impossible for the aid workers to provide needed medical care.

The regions of Sudan and South Sudan have been locked in conflict for more than 50 years.  The Second Civil War fostered a generation of Sudanese “Lost Boys,” who were orphaned children (boys and girls) and former child soldiers.  Many of these children received asylum in other countries, and have since grown up to be advocates for the people of their former nation.

There are Sudanese people who, in middle age, have never known a life that wasn’t threatened or compromised by war.  It is unclear how this conflict will resolve itself, but since the region has known nothing but war for more than a half century, the sad fact is that there will likely always be some measure of unrest in that region.  Hopefully, the returning “Lost Boys,” (many of whom received educations in the United States and Europe) will help their nation overcome its strife, and give their countrymen and women the first glimmer of hope for a peaceful world that they might have ever had.

By Julian Omidi


[1] Kulish, Nicholas: Reports of South Sudan Fighting, Despite Pact, Prompt Worry and Warnings New York Times 2/12/2014 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/13/world/africa/fighting-persists-in-south-sudan-despite-pact-and-aid-groups-issue-warnings.html

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