This post is courtesy of Stephen Cornish, executive director of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders Canada.
“The people who have fled violence in Sudan have found themselves in miserable living conditions. They don’t know if or when they can go home again.” -Rick de Lange, MSF field worker
You may have heard recently about the refugee crisis in South Sudan, a major humanitarian emergency that Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has been responding to since civilians first began to flee violence in Sudan in 2011. It’s a story that’s getting little attention. As MSF teams continue to work hard to meet the needs of an increasing number of Sudanese refugees in South Sudan, I’d like to update you on the situation.
The current crisis began close to a year ago, as fighting between a coalition of rebels and government forces in Sudan drove people from South Kordofan and Blue Nile states across the border to South Sudan, the world’s newest country. Hundreds of thousands have crossed the border in search of safety, ending up in refugee camps with poor living conditions. The camps are in remote and harsh settings and people living there are completely dependent on international aid for survival.
Initially the mortality rates of the exhausted, malnourished and sick Sudanese who arrived at the camps and our clinics were alarming. But our work is having an impact — in Yida camp, now home to almost 63,000 refugees, death rates at our hospital are now below emergency levels. This crisis, however, is far from over. As I write this, there are reports of renewed fighting near the border, which threatens the security of some of the camps and may mean that residents will have to be relocated. The medical and humanitarian needs remain extensive, and it’s an ongoing challenge to meet minimum standards in this difficult and isolated setting.
Rink de Lange, an MSF water and sanitation expert and friend from the Ottawa-area, was part of the emergency response team working in and around Jamam camp. Access to water for the camp was initially limited — Rink reports that at one point the nearest water source was 25 kilometres away. This lack of clean drinkable water, compounded by poor sanitation and the onset of the rainy season, has brought the very real risk of diarrhea, hepatitis E and cholera to the camp.
MSF has supplied millions of litres of drinking water; distributed emergency shelter materials, buckets, soap, and water containers; supported other organizations with materials and technical expertise; and will conduct cholera vaccination campaigns. “We are now preparing for the arrival of the next expected influx of refugees,” says Rink. “The needs are still great.”
Our supporters have played a crucial role in our emergency response so far. It’s thanks to the financial resources provided by our donors that we’ve been able to act, bringing medical and humanitarian care to neglected people. I sincerely hope that you will extend your support to MSF by making a holiday gift through the MSF Warehouse, which features real items that MSF uses in its field projects. Choose from the many items our teams use to bring medical care to people in need and then send a loved one a card to demonstrate that your gift to them is making a real difference.
You can rest assured that MSF will be there to aid those caught in the crisis in South Sudan and other crises around the world. Be a part of the MSF movement and help us bring emergency medical care to people in urgent need.
Photo: Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)