NEW YORK/JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN, April 27, 2017—Over the last three days, close to 25,000 people have been displaced by intense fighting between the South Sudan People’s Liberation Army and the Agwelek forces around the town of Kodok, said the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières' (MSF). The humanitarian organizations that have up until now been providing essential medical services, water, food, non-food items, and shelter have had to temporarily suspend activities on the west bank of the Nile River because of the increasing insecurity.
“This is a disaster in the making, just as the demand is greatest,” said Marcus Bachmann, MSF head of mission for South Sudan. “Hospitals in the area are not operational, and water deliveries are unreliable. Yesterday no water deliveries were made to the internally displaced persons (IDPs) because of the fighting. Given the scorching heat and the exposure of population to the elements, soon we will see people suffering from chronic dehydration and diarrhea as well as diseases like cholera.”
MSF was providing emergency medical support—including at a field hospital and through two mobile clinics in the area—to the 13,000 displaced people who fled fighting in the area in January. However, MSF has been forced to suspend activities because of the recent surge in violence.
Escaping the violence is difficult as positions are rapidly changing hands between the different forces, and displaced people find themselves surrounded by conflict on all sides. Without protection, many will have few other options than to leave for camps in Sudan where they can find refuge. Those who decide to go face a long and arduous journey on foot with hardly any access to food or water.
“We are calling on both parties to ensure that all civilians are protected from the fighting and provided with safe and secure access to essential humanitarian services,” Bachmann said. “As we have been forced to suspend most of our operations, we have provided runaway bags which contain essential medicines and supplies so that our staff who are with the fleeing IDPs can provide basic treatment in the field.”
With the rainy season approaching, it seems likely that the flow of people leaving for Sudan will increase as they avoid being trapped in the area.
Water remains a major concern for these new IDPs. On Tuesday, the people in and around the nearby town of Aburoc only had access to about 16,000 gallons of water per day. This is only an average of less than half a gallon per person, well below the amount needed for survival. On Wednesday, there were no deliveries of water because of the fighting. Water trucks are on hand to resume limited deliveries, but only if the situation becomes safer.