By OSAZUA IVBAZE with Agency Reports
War in South Sudan is worsening with “extreme violence” and growing hunger, rights groups have warned that one year since the start of conflict in which tens of thousands have died.
Campaigners say South Sudan is locked in conflict, with the bloodshed that erupted in Juba exactly a year ago having set off a cycle of retaliatory massacres across large swathes of the country.
“Twelve months on from the outbreak of this war, it is hard to fathom that worse could be yet to come,” South Sudanese peace activist and priest James Ninrew said.
Fighting broke out in South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, when President Salva Kiir accused his sacked deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday said the crisis was “tragic and unacceptable” as he called for a power sharing deal.
“The leaders of South Sudan have allowed their personal ambitions to jeapordize the future of an entire nation,” Ban said in a statement.
“The very premise of the country’s independence struggle – a new beginning that was supposed to be founded on tolerance, good governance, accountability and unity – is disappearing before our eyes.”
Memorial services and candlelit vigils will be held later Monday in Juba, as well as in neighbouring nations into which hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese have fled.
South Sudanese civil society groups, shut out of peace talks between top leaders, have been collecting lists of names of the dead which will be read out on Monday by radio stations.
“Reading the names… is one way we can remember and honour the thousands of innocent men, women and children who should still be alive,” said project organiser Anyieth D’Awol.
The International Crisis Group estimates that at least 50 000 people have been killed, while some diplomats suggest it could even be double that figure. The UN says “tens of thousands have died.”
Rights groups said the situation now was worse than at the end of the two-decade long civil war that paved the way for independence in 2011, when billions of foreign aid dollars were spent to help rebuild.
“We’re in an even darker place than before independence, it will take decades for South Sudan to recover and heal,” said Edmund Yakani, from the Juba-based Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation.
Few are optimistic of peace any time soon.
“If the fighting doesn’t kill our children, there’s a real risk that the food crisis will,” said Both Reath Luang, a priest from the Nuer Peace Council. “Famine will tip us over the edge. We cannot endure another year of war, bloodshed and hunger.”
The United Nations say they averted famine so far through vastly expensive air drops of food aid, but with no sign of an end to war and the long dry season still continuing, a real threat remains.
“We will be in a battle against time and a battle against famine once again in early 2015,” said Toby Lanzer, the UN aid chief in South Sudan. “The situation remains grave today. It could very well get much, much worse.”
Warring sides have broken a string of ceasefire deals, with Skye Wheeler from Human Rights Watch warning of a “total lack of political will” either to make peace or to hold forces to account following a string of atrocities including massacres and mass rapes.
“South Sudan has seen a lot of violence over the generations, but nothing on this scale or severity,” said South Sudanese peace campaigner Lona James from the Voice for Change organisation, calling the levels of rape “truly shocking”.
Oxfam country chief Zlatko Gegic said the situation “is on a knife-edge” and warning that many fear increased fighting in coming months during the dry season, a time in recent years when heavily armed gunmen from rival tribes have launched deadly cattle raids against each other.
Half the country’s 12 million people need aid, the UN says, including nearly two million people who fled their homes from the fighting.
“Divided by the political failures, the ongoing conflict and the uncertainty of peace, the people of South Sudan face a huge task to repair deep and dangerous rifts between them,” said a joint statement by Amnesty International, the International Rescue Committee, Oxfam and Save the Children.
They described the devastation in the country where “entire towns have been pillaged” and thousands killed in “gruesome massacres, or shot in their homes, in hospitals or churches, trying to hide or flee.”
An army of 12 000 child soldiers has been forcibly recruited, the UN children’s agency said, adding that “the scale of the crisis in the world’s youngest country is staggering.”
International attention has “turned away from South Sudan in recent months, but needs remain enormous, and the situation is still serious a year after the crisis began,” said Franz Rauchenstein, head of the delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
South Sudan’s year of civil war
For the last year South Sudan has been devastated by a civil war between government troops supporting President Salva Kiir and forces loyal to his sacked deputy Riek Machar. Peace talks have yielded no result.
Hungry children in South Sudan
More than 10,000 people have been killed and more than a million displaced. Successive attempts by regional mediators to end the bloodshed in South Sudan – backed up by pressure from the international community – have failed to produce any lasting impact. The fighting, which has a strong ethnic component, erupted 12 months ago amid allegations of a coup against President Kiir. For a comparison of the situation then and now, DW talked to peace and management consultant Martin Petry.
DW: Mr Petry, what is your impression of South Sudan today, one year after the alleged coup?
Martin Petry: Everybody had hoped there would be a ceasefire, an agreement to show the way forward. This has not happened. So everybody is now afraid that since an agreement was not reached in the period up to November, the hostilities will start up again, because everybody knows the two parties have been building up their weapons and their capacity to fight.
It has been also the experience of 40 years of civil war in South Sudan that the most intense fighting always takes place between December and April when it is logistically easier to fight and make war. The situation is tense; there is a lot of fear within the population. The majority of the population object to this war, they feel it is not their war. They want peace and they want leaders who are able to make peace.
Martin Petry says there is no ready-made recipe for bringing peace and reconciliation to South Sudan
What has changed since your last visit to South Sudan?
I have been in South Sudan three times this year. When I was there in June, there was still the hope that a round of negotiations would start at the end of August and they even reached the point where they agreed on a roadmap, but in the end there was a dispute over whether the documents had been signed or not. People really thought this was ridiculous. So in June there was still hope, but in September and later in November, a lot of people had lost hope that there would be any progress in the negotiations.
On a more optimistic note, however, there are initiatives from various countries such as the intra-SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement) dialogue, which is mediated by Tanzania. Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, who for some time was only backing South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir is now opening up for discussion with the SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) in opposition.
You work for a peace and management consultancy. How do you see your role in all of this?
One of the lessons I have learnt as a consultant is that we should face up to the complexity of this conflict and that means that there is no recipe. There are many, many problems and there is no recipe which says ‘this is what a reconciliation process should look like’ or ‘this is the way negotiation results could be produced’ or ‘federalism is the solution for South Sudan.’ If you support initiatives for South Sudan in an honest and genuine way, then you must also admit that as an outsider you don’t know what is best for South Sudan, you can only accompany, support, strengthen, make partnerships crisis-proof, give them flexible funding and help them to learn from their own experiences, so that in the end we have a South Sudanese solution and a South Sudanese transformation process.
What is your assessment of the political climate in South Sudan?
The country is at war and the government feels strongly under pressure both from within and without. It responds to this by reducing the space available to civil society. That is very unfortunate. You would expect a country that is under pressure to be open and do something to improve the relations between the state and society, but the opposite is happening. There are discussing an NGO bill which is restrictive and looks as if it has been copy-pasted from Sudan. Another inspiration from Sudan is a security bill which would give the South Sudanese regime opportunities to be repressive. The media are also under heavy pressure.
With all the other crises going on in the world – Syria, for instance – do you get the impression that the people of South Sudan have been forgotten?
Yes. If you talk to the South Sudanese, that’s what they feel. The news is dominated by Syria, Ukraine, even though in South Sudan you would have something to report on more or less every day. International attention on South Sudan is not what it should be – in my opinion and in the opinion of many South Sudanese.
Second Sudanese Civil War
Conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan
The Second Sudanese Civil War was a conflict from 1983 to 2005 between the central Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. It was largely a continuation of the First Sudanese Civil War of 1955 to 1972. Although it originated in southern Sudan, the civil war spread to the Nuba mountains and Blue Nile. It lasted for 22 years, and is one of the longest civil wars on record. The war resulted in the splitting away of South Sudan six years after the war ended.
Roughly two million people have died as a result of war, famine and disease caused by the conflict. Four million people in southern Sudan have been displaced at least once (and often repeatedly) during the war. The civilian death toll is one of the highest of any war since World War II and was marked by a large number of human rights violations, particularly by the government in Khartoum. These include slavery and mass killings. The conflict officially ended with the signing of a peace agreement in January 2005.
The war is often characterized as a fight between the central government expanding and dominating peoples of the periphery, raising allegations of marginalization. Kingdoms and great powers based along the Nile River have fought against the people of inland Sudan for centuries. Since at least the 17th century, central governments have attempted to regulate and exploit the undeveloped southern and inland Sudan.
Some sources describe the conflict as an ethnoreligious one where the Muslim central government’s pursuits to impose sharia law on non-Muslim southerners led to violence, and eventually to the civil war. Douglas Johnson has pointed to an exploitative governance as the root cause.
Map of Sudan at the time of the civil war.
When the British governed Sudan as a colony they administered the northern and southern provinces separately. The south was held to be more similar to the other east-African colonies — Kenya, Tanganyika, and Uganda — while northern Sudan was more similar to Arabic-speaking Egypt. Northern Arabs were prevented from holding positions of power in the south with its African traditions, and trade was discouraged between the two areas. However, in 1946, the British gave in to northern pressure to integrate the two areas. Arabic was made the language of administration in the south, and northerners began to hold positions there. The southern elite, trained in English, resented the change as they were kept out of their own government. After decolonization most power was given to the northern elites based in Khartoum, causing unrest in the south. The British moved towards granting Sudan independence, but they failed to give enough power to Southern leaders. Southern Sudanese leaders weren’t even invited to negotiations during the transitional period in the 1950s. In the post-colonial government of 1953, the Sudanization Committee only included 6 southern leaders, though there were some 800 available senior administrative positions.
The second war was partially about natural resources. Between the north and the south lie significant oil fields and thus significant foreign interests (the oil revenue is privatized to Western interests as in Nigeria). The north wanted to control these resources because they are situated on the edge of the Sahara desert, which is unsuitable for agricultural development. Oil revenues make up about 70% of Sudan’s export earnings, and contribute to the development of the country which, unlike the south, does not depend on international aid. Due to numerous tributaries of the Nile river and heavier precipitation in the south of Sudan they have superior access to water access and fertile land.
There has also been a significant amount of death from warring tribes in the south. Most of the conflict has been between Nuer and Dinka but other ethnic groups have also been involved. These tribal conflicts have remained after independence. For example, in January 2012 3,000 Murle people were massacred by the Nuer.
The civil war ended in 1972, with the Addis Ababa Agreement. Part of the agreement gave religious and cultural autonomy to the south.
Addis Ababa Agreement ended
The Addis Ababa Accords were incorporated in the Constitution of Sudan; the violation of the agreement led to the second civil war.
The first violations occurred when President Gaafar Nimeiry attempted to take control of oil fields straddling the north-south border. Oil had been discovered in Bentiu in 1978, in southern Kurdufan and Upper Blue Nile in 1979, the Unity oilfields in 1980 and Adar oilfields in 1981, and in Heglig in 1982. Access to the oil fields meant significant economic benefit to whoever controlled them.
Islamic fundamentalists in the north had been discontented with the Addis Ababa Agreement, which gave relative autonomy to the non-Islamic majority Southern Sudan Autonomous Region. The fundamentalists continued to grow in power, and in 1983 President Nimeiry declared all Sudan an Islamic state, terminating the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region.
Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA)
The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) was founded in 1983 as a rebel group, to reestablish an autonomous Southern Sudan by fighting against the central government. While based in Southern Sudan, it identified itself as a movement for all oppressed Sudanese citizens, and was led by John Garang. Initially, the SPLA campaigned for a “United Sudan”, criticizing the central government for policies that were leading to national “disintegration”.
In September 1984, President Nimeiry announced the end of the state of emergency and dismantled the emergency courts but soon promulgated a new judiciary act, which continued many of the practices of the emergency courts. Despite Nimeiry’s public assurances that the rights of non-Muslims would be respected, southerners and other non-Muslims remained deeply suspicious.
Further information: Transitional Military Council and History of Sudan (1986–present)
On 6 April, senior military officers led by Gen. Abdul Rahman Suwar ad-Dahhab mounted a coup. Among the first acts of the new government was to suspend the 1983 constitution, rescind the decree declaring Sudan’s intent to become an Islamic state, and disband Nimeiry’s Sudan Socialist Union. However, the “September laws” instituting Islamic Sharia law were not suspended.
A 15-member transitional military council was named, chaired by Gen. Suwar ad-Dahhab, in 1983. In consultation with an informal conference of political parties, unions, and professional organizations—known as the “Gathering”—the military council appointed an interim civilian cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Dr. Al-Jazuli Daf’allah. Elections were held in April 1986, and a transitional military council turned over power to a civilian government as promised. The government was headed by Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi of the Umma Party. It consisted of a coalition of the Umma Party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) (formerly the NUP-National Unionist Party), the National Islamic Front (NIF) of Hassan al-Turabi, and several southern region parties. This coalition dissolved and reformed several times over the next few years, with Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi and his Umma Party always in a central role.
Negotiation and escalation
In May 1986, the Sadiq al-Mahdi government coalition began peace negotiations with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) led by Col. John Garang. In that year the SPLA and a number of Sudanese political parties met in Ethiopia and agreed to the “Koka Dam” declaration, which called for abolishing Islamic Sharia law and convening a constitutional conference. In 1988, the SPLA and the DUP agreed on a peace plan calling for the abolition of military pacts with Egypt and Libya, freezing of Sharia law, an end to the state of emergency, and a cease-fire. However during this period the second civil war intensified in lethality, and the national economy continued to deteriorate. When prices of basic goods were increased in 1988, riots ensued, and the price increases were cancelled. When Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi refused to approve a peace plan reached by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in November 1988, the DUP left the government. The new government consisted essentially of the Umma Party and the fundamentalist National Islamic Front (NIF). In February 1989, the army presented Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi with an ultimatum: he could move toward peace or be removed. He chose to form a new government with the DUP, and approved the SPLA/DUP peace plan. A constitutional conference was tentatively planned for September 1989.
Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation
On 30 June 1989, however, military officers under then Col. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, with National Islamic Front (NIF) instigation and support, replaced the Sadiq al-Mahdi government with the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation (RCC), a military junta of 15 military officers (reduced to 12 in 1991) assisted by a civilian cabinet. As General al-Bashir he became: president; chief of state; prime minister; and chief of the armed forces.
The RCC al-Bashir military government banned trade unions, political parties, and other “non-religious” institutions. About 78,000 members of the army, police, and civil administration were purged in order to reshape the government.
Criminal Act of 1991
In March 1991, a new penal code, the Criminal Act of 1991, instituted harsh punishments nationwide, including amputations and stoning. Although the southern states were officially exempt from these Islamic prohibitions and penalties, the 1991 act provided for a possible future application of Islamic Shari’a law in the south. In 1993, the government transferred most non-Muslim judges from the south to the north, replacing them with Muslim judges in the south. The introduction of Public Order Police to enforce Shari’a law resulted in the arrest, and treatment under Shari’a penalties, of southerners and other non-Muslims living in the north.
Conduct of the war: 1991–2001
The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) was in control of large areas of Equatoria, Bahr al Ghazal, and Upper Nile provinces and also operated in the southern portions of Darfur, Kordofan, and Blue Nile provinces. The government controlled a number of the major southern towns and cities, including Juba, Wau, and Malakal. An informal cease-fire in May broke down in October 1989.
In July 1992, a government offensive seized southern Sudan, and captured the SPLA headquarters in Torit.
It is estimated that as many as 200,000 Southern Sudanese and Nuba children and women have been taken into slavery from Southern Sudanese towns and villages during the war. Both the government regular armed forces and notorious militia (known as the People’s Defense Forces, PDF) were used to attack and raid villages in the South and the Nuba Mountains for slaves and cattle.
In August 1991, internal dissension among the rebels led opponents of Colonel Garang’s leadership of the SPLA to form the so-called Nasir faction of the SPLA rebel army. The attempt to overthrow Garang was led by Riek Machar and Lam Akol. In November 1991, SPLA-Nasir carried out the Bor massacre, killing an estimated 2000 civilians. In September 1992, William Nyuon Bany formed a second rebel faction, and in February 1993, Kerubino Kwanyin Bol formed a third rebel faction. On 5 April 1993, the three dissident rebel factions announced a coalition of their groups called SPLA United at a press conference in Nairobi, Kenya. Yet Sudan’s national governments have a long history of using proxies in Southern Sudan, and the North–South border areas, to fight their wars and preserve their regular forces. These militias were recruited locally, and with covert ties to the national government. Many of the Khartoum-aligned groups were created and then armed by the NIF in a deliberate ‘divide and rule’ strategy.
After 1991, the factions clashed occasionally and thus, the rebels lost much of their credibility with the West.
Then, in 1990–91, the Sudanese government supported Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. This changed American attitudes toward the country. Bill Clinton’s administration prohibited American investment in the country and supplied money to neighbouring countries to repel Sudanese incursions. The US also began attempts to “isolate” Sudan and began referring to it as a rogue state.
Since 1993, the leaders of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya have pursued a peace initiative for Sudan under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), but results have been mixed. Despite that record, the IGAD initiative promulgated the 1994 Declaration of Principles (DOP) that aimed to identify the essential elements necessary to a just and comprehensive peace settlement; i.e., the relationship between religion and the state, power-sharing, wealth-sharing, and the right of self-determination for the south. The Sudanese Government did not sign the DOP until 1997 after major battlefield losses to the SPLA.SPLA alignments
In 1995, the opposition in the north united with parties from the south to create a coalition of opposition parties called the National Democratic Alliance. This development opened a northeastern front to the civil war, making it more than before a center-periphery rather than simply a north-south conflict. The SPLA, DUP, and Umma Parties were the key groups forming the NDA, along with several smaller parties and northern ethnic groups.
In 1995, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda stepped up their military assistance to the SPLA to the point of sending active troops into Sudan. Eritrean and Ethiopian military involvement weakened when the two countries entered a border conflict in 1998. Uganda’s support weakened when it shifted its attention to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
By 1997, seven groups in the government camp, led by former Garang lieutenant Riek Machar, signed the Khartoum Peace Agreement with the NIF, thereby forming the largely symbolic South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF) umbrella. Also in 1997, the government signed the Nuba Mountains, and Fashoda agreements with rebel factions. These included the Khartoum, agreements that ended military conflict between the government and significant rebel factions. Many of those leaders then moved to Khartoum where they assumed marginal roles in the central government, or collaborated with the government in military engagements against the SPLA. These three agreements paralleled the terms and conditions of the IGAD agreement, calling for a degree of autonomy for the south and the right of self-determination.Frontlines in Southern Sudan in June 2001.
In July 2000, the Libyan/Egyptian Joint Initiative on the Sudan was mooted, calling for the establishment of an interim government, power-sharing, constitutional reform, and new elections. Southern critics objected to the joint initiative because it neglected to address issues of the relationship between religion and the state and failed to mention the right of self-determination. It is unclear to what extent this initiative will have a significant impact on the search for peace, as some critics view it as more aimed at a resolution among northern political parties and protecting the perceived security interests of Egypt in favour of the unity of the Sudan.Peace agreement
Peace talks between the southern rebels and the government made substantial progress in 2003 and early 2004, although skirmishes in parts of the south continued. A Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed on 9 January 2005 in Nairobi.
The terms of the peace treaty were:
The south had autonomy for six years, followed by a referendum on independence (the Southern Sudanese independence referendum, 2011).
Both sides of the conflict would have merged portions of their armed forces into a 39,000-strong force after six years (the Joint Integrated Units), if the Southern Sudanese independence referendum had turned out against secession.
Oil revenues were divided equally between the government and SPLA during the six-year autonomy period.
Jobs were split according to varying ratios (central administration: 70 to 30, Abyei/Blue Nile State/Nuba Mountains: 55 to 45, both in favour of the government).
The status of three central and eastern provinces was a point of contention in the negotiations.
In 1999, Egypt and Libya initiated the Egypt-Libya Initiative (ELI). By this time the peace process of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD) had reached a stalemate. ELI’s main purpose had been to bring members of the non-Southern opposition (especially opposition in the north) aboard the talks. However, as ELI avoided contentious issues, such as secession, it lacked support from the SPLA, but the NDA leadership accepted it. By 2001, ELI had been unable to bring about any agreement between the parties.
In September 2001, former U.S. Senator John Danforth was designated Presidential Envoy for Peace in the Sudan. His role was to explore the prospects that the US could play a useful catalytic role in the search for a just end to the civil war, and enhance humanitarian services delivery that can help reduce the suffering of the Sudanese people stemming from war related effects.
Following an internal outcry, the Sadiq al-Mahdi government in March 1989 agreed with the United Nations and donor nations (including the US) on a plan called Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), under which some 100,000 tons of food was moved into both government and SPLA-held areas of the Sudan, and widespread starvation was averted. Phase II of OLS to cover 1990 was approved by both the government and the SPLA Sudan faced a 2-year drought and food shortage across the entire country. The US, UN, and other donors attempted to mount a coordinated international relief effort in both north and south Sudan to prevent a catastrophe. However, due to Sudan’s human rights abuses and its pro-Iraqi stance during the Gulf War, many donors cut much of their aid to the Sudan. In a similar drought in 2000–01, the international community again responded to avert mass starvation in the Sudan. International donors continue to provide large amounts of humanitarian aid to all parts of the Sudan.
The US government’s Sudan Peace Act of 21 October 2002 accused Sudan of genocide for killing more than 2 million civilians in the south during the civil war since 1983.Arms suppliers
Sudan relied on a variety of countries for its arms supplies. Following independence, the army was trained and supplied by the British. However, after the 1967 Six-Day War, relations were cut off, as were relations with the United States and West Germany.
From 1968 to 1972, the Soviet Union and COMECON nations sold large numbers of weapons and provided technical assistance and training to Sudan. At this time the army grew from a strength of 18,000 to roughly 50,000 men. Large numbers of tanks, aircraft, and artillery were acquired, and they dominated the army until the late 1980s.
Relations cooled between the two sides after the coup in 1972, and the Khartoum government sought to diversify its suppliers. The Soviet Union continued to supply weapons until 1977, when their support of Marxist elements in Ethiopia angered the Sudanese sufficiently to cancel their deals. The People’s Republic of China was the main supplier in the late 1970s.
Egypt was the most important military partner in the 1970s, providing missiles, personnel carriers, and other military hardware. At the same time military cooperation between the two countries was important.
U.S.-aligned countries resumed supplying Sudan in the mid-1970s. The United States began selling Sudan a great deal of equipment around 1976, hoping to counteract Soviet support of Marxist Ethiopians and Libyans. Military sales peaked in 1982 at US$101 million. After the start of the second civil war, American assistance dropped, and was eventually cancelled in 1987.
In November 1993, Iran was reported to have financed Sudan´s purchase of some 20 Chinese ground-attack aircraft. Iran pledged $17 million in financial aid to the Sudanese government, and arranged for $300 million in Chinese arms to be delivered to the Sudanese army.
Meanwhile the rebel SPLA was supplied weapons through or by Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Uganda. The Israeli embassy in Kenya also supplied anti-tank missiles to the rebels.
Armies from all sides enlisted children in their ranks. The 2005 agreement required that child soldiers be demobilized and sent home. The SPLA claimed to have let go 16,000 of its child soldiers between 2001 and 2004. However, international observers (UN and Global Report 2004) have found demobilized children have often been re-recruited by the SPLA. As of 2004, there were between 2,500 and 5,000 children serving in the SPLA. Rebels have promised to demobilize all children by the end of 2010. The goal was met. The idea of children being soldiers did not help either side win the war.
The Nuer White Army, a minor participant in the war in the Greater Upper Nile region, consisted largely of armed Nuer youths, but it was principally self-organised and often operated autonomously of both elders’ authority and the dictates of the major factions.
South Sudan Refugee Crisis
Over 170,000 refugees have fled their homes in Sudan since mid-2011, to seek safety in neighbouring South Sudan. © Louise Roland-Gosselin
In mid-2011 a conflict started between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) armed group in Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan States. In November 2011, the fighting escalated and tens of thousands of people fled to save their lives.
To date nearly 40,000 refugees have crossed into Ethiopia and around 170,000 into South Sudan. For many, their journey to South Sudan took up to six weeks, going from cave to cave, eating only leaves and roots, struggling to find water to drink; and many refugees lost family members who collapsed dead from exhaustion, malnutrition or illness while making the journey to the border. Now in South Sudan they are gathered in camps where they are entirely dependent on humanitarian aid for the basic essentials they need to stay alive – food, water, shelter and healthcare.
The current situationIn total there are approximately 170,000 Sudanese refugees living in five refugee camps in South Sudan. Médecins Sans Frontières is present in all five of the camps, providing essential medical and water services for the refugees, tailored to the specific needs in each camp.
Yida Camp, in Unity State, South Sudan
Around 60,000 refugees have fled to Yida camp from South Kordofan State. Médecins Sans Frontières has been present in this camp since December 2011 and reached the peak of emergency response during the worst of the rainy season, from May to July 2012, when the camp population quadrupled, with up to 1,000 new arrivals per day. Mortality was more than double the emergency threshold and up to five children were dying every day from the vicious circle of malnutrition complicated by such pathologies as diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia. To complicate matters further, the floodwater cut the camp off entirely from any road access and the only way in and out was by plane.
Now the rainy season floods have receded, the peak of the horrific mortality crisis is over. But the refugees are still in need of humanitarian aid for all the basics to survive. While other organisations are responsible for other aspects of the humanitarian response, Médecins Sans Frontières is taking the lead in providing healthcare:
Number of field hospitals: 1
Number of outpatient health-posts: 1
Number of international staff: 16
Number of locally recruited staff: 174
Number of consultations per week: around 2100
Main medical issues: respiratory infections, diarrhoea, malaria and continuing outbreak of hepatitis E
Batil, Doro, Gendrassa and Jamam Camps, in Upper Nile State, South Sudan
Around 110,000 refugees have fled from Blue Nile State to the inhospitable wastes of Maban County, where they are gathered in four refugee camps. Médecins Sans Frontières has been present in Maban County since November 2011, when the first refugees started arriving. As in Yida camp, the situation became catastrophic between June and August, when the combination of the rainy season floods, an influx of 35,000 new refugees in a condition of total exhaustion, and a very high burden of disease and malnutrition took its toll. Mortality rates soared to more than double the emergency threshold.
Now the flood waters have receded, the situation has somewhat stabilised, but without continued significant humanitarian aid, the refugees would have no food, water or healthcare. The dryer conditions also mean more refugees are starting to cross the border again, which was not possible in the rainy season. Médecins Sans Frontières is present in all the camps providing medical care and is still pumping, treating and distributing hundreds of thousands of litres of clean drinking water every day in Doro camp.
Number of field hospitals: 3
Number of outpatient health-posts: 7
Number of international staff: 90
Number of locally recruited staff: 700
Number of consultations per week: around 5,500
Main medical issues: diarrhoea, respiratory infections, malaria and a continuing outbreak of hepatitis E
Water treated and distributed per week: around 2.5 million litres