4/12/2013: Today, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan visited South Sudan for the first time since its independence was established in 2011. This follows an agreement reached between the two nations in March that allows for the resumption of cross-border oil trading. After decades of war and recent disagreements between the two neighbors, the move has defused tension. However, humanitarian concerns remain a serious issue in the border regions of both countries.
People moving from Sudan to South Sudan. Many have to sleep under busses. © SOS Archives.
The SOS Children’s Villages emergency response team in South Sudan is concerned about the conditions facing a large number of people returning from Sudan. Many returnees are currently at a way station in Malakal, a border town in South Sudan. It has the capacity to accommodate 700 people. However, OCHA (the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) estimates that the current number stands at over 1,000; a number that is set to rise.
This is a source of serious concern for SOS Children’s Villages South Sudan. In partnership with local authorities and other NGOs, the emergency team in Malakal has scaled up its response. Provision of clean water, health services and sanitation is a priority, as a child in the way station has already died due to diarrhea, an entirely preventable condition.
In a country where one third of all children are stunted due to malnutrition, three SOS Medical Centers in Malakal now provide much-needed health care. In the past year alone, 9,000 people were treated at the SOS Center for malaria after an outbreak threatened the South Sudanese city. To prevent the transmission of diseases such as cholera, sanitation and hygiene classes have been provided to local communities.
Among Children, Bullying along Tribal Lines has Ceased
A woman in Malakal feeds an orphaned baby. © Conor Ashleigh.
Hygiene kits and other essential goods are being distributed to families and over 270 children who now play in a safe and educational environment. “The success of our child friendly spaces is clear,” says Mr. Kiros Aregawi, Program Manager for SOS Children’s Villages in South Sudan. “Bullying and fights along tribal lines have ceased. There is an increased interest in learning English – our new official language. And the nutritional status of children previously at risk of severe acute malnutrition is greatly improved. Meeting the needs of the additional children arriving now is a matter of urgency,” he said.
To ease the congestion and avoid a humanitarian crisis aid agencies are uniting to arrange transportation to help returnees return to their final destination. As the country lacks much-needed road infrastructure, air transport is being made available for those from the Bahr el Ghazal region in the west. Busses and boats are ferrying returnees to other regions.
Those who arrive today are happy that peace appears to have been restored. However, their immediate needs must be addressed to prevent a serious humanitarian crisis.
You can help prevent the onset of another humanitarian crisis in South Sudan by sponsoring a child or making a donation to SOS Children’s Villages.