South Sudan. As part of the assessment mission at the beginning of January, I travelled to Juba and Awerial in Lakes State. Following the political crisis in South Sudan and the armed conflict, I saw many displaced people both in the camps and in trucks moving to safer areas.
The humanitarian situation in South Sudan is currently dire, especially in Awerial where there are no organized IDP camps or settlements supported by the United Nations. There are also security concerns in most parts of the country – populations are prone to killings because of the ethnic dimensions of the conflict. I also saw that most of the displaced people were children and women.
The fighting was going on in Bor. I was in Awerial, 300 km west of Juba across the Nile. I saw people arriving in boats throughout the day while I was in Awerial. There was intense gun fire in Juba and there is continuous fighting in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states.
I saw people fetching water from the River Nile and using it for drinking, washing and cooking. Open defecation and sanitation has become a major concern. There are many young people and children in need of protection – especially girls, as water and other services are not communally managed. Food and non-food items continue to be needed for those arriving, because people are simply running, leaving their possessions and assets behind.
I did not see any child soldiers, but there have been reports of recruitments going on.
Children are traumatised and most of them have lost friends. Humanitarian access has been a major concern for all humanitarian agencies – moving logistics supplies is a bigger challenge as it affects quick response, and of course security is a major concern.
South Sudan will pose lots of challenges in rebuilding and reconstruction. The main priority now is the end of the war and hostilities. There is no clear timeline for this and if the situation continues and not managed this will turn into a deadly civil war.
Children and a whole generation is at stake, as there have been fewer than two years of independence in South Sudan, following three decades of civil conflicts.
Author: Marko Lesukat, Regional Disaster Risk Management Manager, Plan International