A new crisis country
Every day for the last 6 months, tens of thousands of people have been flowing into Jamam camp in the northern tip of newborn South Sudan. Jamam was not so long ago a town of 3,000 inhabitants with limited basic services. It has now become a camp with some 36,500 displaced persons and refugees. These populations have been fleeing violence and perpetrations between rival ethnic groups in northern parts of the country. Some have come from the south of neighboring Sudan, driven away by conflict and bombings raging on both sides of the border.
Nowadays, all the northern States of South Sudan are faced with a crisis, from Western Bahr El Ghazal in the west to Upper Nile in the East, passing through Warrap, Unity, and even Jonglei, further south. These regions are deprived of basic services, and local populations are extremely vulnerable. Hundreds of thousands of displaced and refugee men, women and children, are an extra burden for the deprived host communities, as they are in need of the most basic items such as food, water, shelter, etc. In this urgent context, humanitarian actors are mobilized to face such situations of distress. Among them, ACTED teams are getting more numerous by the day and are tackling issues in displacement and host areas.
The current situation
For decades, South Sudan has been affected by conflict and violence, destroying a large portion of existing social infrastructure. South Sudanese populations are in need of everything: schools, access to healthcare, road networks, markets, electricity... Few investments have been made, and reconstruction after years of war is a long and difficult process.
South Sudan depends on an economy based on livelihoods. Agriculture is the main activity, but it is affected by a crop failure this year due to a lack of rainfall that severely impacted the 2011 harvests. The cereal deficit could reach some 473,000 metric tons: 40% of national annual needs, according to figures released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Households are forced to diminish their consumption, leading to higher risks of food insecurity and malnutrition, which reach peak rates in northern and eastern parts of the country. The dependence of the South Sudanese economy on its oil exports through Sudan are jeopardized by border closure with Khartoum, and poor road infrastructure which make the situation direr every day.
Displaced people crises
To a context of endemic poverty and vulnerability, the displacement crisis adds extra demographic pressure on the few available resources.
Strife on either side of the border between Sudan and South Sudan has caused the displacement of some 105,000 people, for the most part in Unity and Upper Nile States.
Another 350,000 people are South Sudanese who have returned from the northern neighbor since 2010, and have settled in Western Bahr El Ghazal, Warrap, Unity and Upper Nile.
Relief organizations and international actors are working together to respond to the issues the South Sudanese people are confronted with. It is urgent to face the current displacement crisis, while supporting the country’s reconstruction process and the changes since independence in 2011.
The task at hand is huge, and the logistical challenges for NGOs are considerable, but the emergency remains, every day, for thousands of women, men and children.
The sheer scale of population displacements is overwhelming for the deprived host locations, especially in Unity and Upper Nile, particularly Jamam camp, where ACTED teams have been operational since January. Everything needs to be done for families who arrive with very few possessions, such as Dehir, who arrived in Jamam after walking for four months looking for a safe, “non violent” place for her family of six children.
These refugee populations are first in need of drinking water, food, shelter and basic items, kitchenware, building equipment to strengthen the shelter, mosquito nets, soap, etc. Food distributions have begun, but are subject to inherent issues such as the availability of food for all.
Refugees only have 8 liters of water per day each, while minimum (SPHERE) standards require 15 liters, and the UNHCR even recommends 20.
Every day, ACTED teams have to do with traditional refugee camp issues that are magnified by a camp the size of a city. The more than 36,500 camp-dwellers are from different, sometimes conflicting communities, a majority of which are young, as 60% are under the age of 18. The pressure caused by the camp on its environment is considerable and inevitable, especially on wood consumption, the main source of energy for the people.
Other problems add up, such as common issues related to large concentrations of population, and are directly addressed by ACTED teams in the framework of emergency interventions: energy efficient stoves will soon be offered to camp-dwellers to reduce energy consumption, and ACTED has organized the camp according to refugees’ community of origin. This type of arrival management is the best way to prevent tension and coordinate aid provisions, while resorting to traditional conflict resolution mechanisms.
Additional difficulties related to the geographical and historical context, namely during the rainy season, add up to the immediate needs. Jamam camp, in the extreme northeast of the country, is difficultly accessible by road from capital city Juba, which alone accounts for 90% of the whole country’s tarmac roads. Transportation and goods shipment are limited because of the absence of transport infrastructure and the frail security situation in northern parts of South Sudan.
The rainy season expected at the end of April will make logistical issues trickier yet; the only available roads will soon be impassable, and aid will only be shipped by barges on the Nile and its tributaries. Setting up infrastructure, schools, registration, health, and community centers will come to a halt, as well as any agricultural activity. The rains could also have consequences for Jamam camp dwellers, who may face floods. The clay soil in the area may restrict evacuation and keep waters at ground level.
An unprecedented deployment
NGOs on the spot are therefore engaged in a race against time before the rainy season. ACTED’s deployment in the area is unprecedented compared to other interventions in Africa. Up close with South Sudanese populations for years, ACTED is delivering a full-scale emergency response to support displaced and refugee populations who have been arriving in the country since September 2011.
For the last four months, ACTED teams on the ground are being supported by an emergency REACT team of 27 technical experts from ACTED countries of intervention and headquarters. Side by side, they are working on a daily basis in Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei States to assess needs, identify priority intervention areas, to proceed with relief provision and to set up the required logistical infrastructurefor the emergency response in Jamam (Upper Nile), Pariang and Nyeel camps (Unity). To face the massive logistical challenge, teams on location are being greatly supported by bases in Malakal (Upper Nile State capital) and Juba.
In such a complex situation of great needs and logistical challenges, ACTED is working in close collaboration with other major actors on the ground, such as the United Nations’ Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the World Food Programme, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) or Oxfam. Coordinating relief efforts is a key priority in order to ensure the consistency and efficiency of aid provided on camp. Humanitarian agencies are regularly gathered by ACTED as camp manager, to solve problems such as water provision, tension mitigation, setting up activities and sharing information and resources. Coordination is a daily necessity on the ground, especially in cases such as water and sanitation, when needs are ever-increasing. Oxfam, in charge of water and sanitation management in Jamam, is receiving support from MSF and ACTED teams, who are providing information on the location of water sources on and off camp, and finding new borehole drilling points. International NGOs are the only ones involved in coordination bodies, as ACTED is working with community leaders to identify camp dwellers’ needs at best, to facilitate prevention message dissemination within the camp, and to ensure the link with most actors mobilized on the context.
The camp setup and basic service provision is also made possible by ACTED, in charge of supplying the camp with construction material for its infrastructure. Camp dwellers and host communities have both been recruited to take part in these activities, in the framework of cash for work interventions.
Every day, ACTED teams respond to camp populations’ immediate needs by ensuring access to shelter with the provision of some 1,800 tents and equipment for the reinforcement of existing shelter, and by distributing basic need items upon the arrival of the displaced persons on camp: mosquito nets, sleeping mats, blankets, buckets, plastic sheeting, and a kitchen set for the household.
ACTED distributed to displaced people basic need items: mosquito nets, sleeping mats, blankets, buckets, plastic sheeting, kitchen set...
The kitchen set allows Dehir to cook for her family, and when she isn’t using it, she shares it with four other families in her area of Jamam who have not received any basic items yet.
Long term livelihood support activities are planned to enable the community to become self-sufficient. These include the identification of agricultural land near the camp, production of soap by women’s groups, alternative energy solutions such as energy efficient stoves to reduce deforestation for firewood, and replanting trees to mitigate the environmental impact of 36,500 refugees.
- Africa, land of crises.
- Interview: Benoit, who was part of the emergency intervention.
- Report about displaced families and ACTED teams.
- ACTED mobilization in Jonglei State.
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