Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is providing medical care in two camps in Juba, South Sudan, where 40,000 people are seeking refuge from the widespread fighting that erupted in mid-December when a dispute between the President and the main opposition leader developed into a full-scale conflict. The strife, which spread to many parts of the country, has led to more than 10,000 deaths and displaced nearly 900,000 people from their homes.
MSF carries out around 1,600 consultations per week in the two camps in Juba, mainly for diarrheal diseases, malnutrition, and respiratory tract infections. MSF also has inpatient facilities in both camps with a total capacity of 50 beds.
In the Tomping camp, living conditions are extremely poor. The camp is overcrowded; there are only 10 square meters for every person in the camp, and water and sanitation is a major problem. There is only one latrine for every 50 people, which is above the emergency threshold standard for such a setting and exacerbates health problems among residents.
What’s more, the rainy season will start at the end of March. Unless residents are moved to a place that is less crowded and has a better drainage system, it is very likely that diarrheal diseases and malaria will spread. A flooded, overcrowded camp would make for an untenable and dangerous situation for camp residents, many of whom are too afraid to return home. There are ongoing discussions about moving residents to a better equipped camp, but nothing has been finalized as of yet.
Testimonies from Camp Residents
What follows are testimonies from camp residents, beginning with a woman named Mary Michael who fled her home in December 2013, the same day she gave birth to a son:
“All my neighbors were taking off,” she recalls. “I had just given birth that morning. I couldn’t live with the fear of my children being exposed to more danger. [Around noon] I tightened my belly, carried my five-hour-old baby, and walked to the camp.
“I am now here with my baby and my seven children,” she continued. “I don’t know where my husband is or whether he is alive or dead or if he joined the fight. I don’t know where my relatives are or how they are doing. I hope they are all fine by the grace of God until we meet each other one day.
“My five-year old boy Kwashi Ban is very sick with wounds and peeling skin. He has been in the clinic almost a week. The doctors say he is suffering from malnutrition. He does not eat and complains of stomachache. There are very many people in the camp and I don’t know what disease my child has contracted from others. I have no idea about the future of the country; fights are still going on, innocents are being killed.”
Mary Nyakan, the mother of three children, came to the Tomping camp on December 16, 2013. Her two-year old son Simon Malek was admitted to MSF’s clinic two weeks ago and is suffering from pneumonia and malnutrition associated with watery diarrhea:
“The situation was so terrible,” she says. “There was killing and looting so we had to come here. Life in the camp is very difficult. There is no food, and poor water and sanitation. We are exposed to very poor conditions and I think that is why our children are becoming very sick. We only get food like beans, flour, rice, and packed porridge, which is just for survival.
“There is not enough space and no proper shelter. I pray to God that he brings peace and has mercy upon us who are suffering. The leaders who are fighting should end the fight so that we can go back to our homes.”