29.07.14

Challenges of delivering aid in conflict 

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By Lillian Omariba, Regional Media Specialist for Eastern and Southern Africa

Lilian Omariba 29th July 2014 Awerial country in Lakes State is located at the centre of South Sudan. It is one of the counties hosting an influx of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) who fled fighting in the country. Early in the morning, on the shores of the river Nile at Mingkaman in Awerial, there is a -hive of activity. Some people are boarding boats to return to their homes in Bor County, Jonglei State, to check on their abandoned properties and cattle. Insecurity continues to pose the biggest challenge to aid efforts. Fighting has prevented aid workers from reaching some people in need. Many people have lost hope and are not sure of their future. Most people are living in fear. White Tent, Blog, Lilian Omariba, Graham Juma, Plan International’s Project Field Supervisor for Torit, tells us that humanitarian agencies are trying to support in the emergency response, but the needs for IDPs are many. The situation is complex and sometimes it is difficult for the humanitarian actors to access IDPs because of insecurity. On 22 January 2014, the humanitarian response to an estimated 84,000 people in Mingkaman and surrounding areas of Awerial was suspended, as nearby clashes forced over 100 aid workers to relocate temporarily to Yirol town about 160 kms from Mingkaman. I was part of the Plan team that was in the field that day. It all happened just about two hours after starting work early in the morning. We had just arrived at the centre where Plan was distributing nutrition supplements for malnourished children. Three injured soldiers were brought to a nearby clinic in the Mingkaman camp. Everyone stopped what they were doing, people were afraid and some people started leaving. We hurried to find out what had happened from county officials who informed us that fighting had taken place at dawn a Kalthok, a small town not too far from Mingkaman. Plan Staff Unload boxes Lilian Blog I thought of those helpless women and children I saw sleeping under the trees with just mosquito nets hanged from tree branches. A shed is all they have for their shelter. They had nowhere to go, but were forced to flee again for their safety. I felt bad that our mission was disrupted For three days we were stopped from travelling from Yirol and were allowed to proceed to Juba on the 24th of Jan 2014. Well, these are experiences that just harden you, I thought to myself. The violence caused many of the displaced people to temporarily flee Mingkaman, but reports indicate that they are slowly returning. “It is difficult to establish the exact numbers of IDPs at one point since people keep moving,” says Graham, adding that “in such a complex situation issues like child protection are imminent and humanitarian actors need to work in partnership”. The conflict has left approximately more than 500,000 people displaced, including over 112,000 who have fled to neighbouring countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan. “Before the crisis, the population for the host community in Mingkaman was 60, 000,” John Barach, a secretary for Relief Rehabilitation Commission (RRC) in charge of Awerial County tells us. “The numbers continue to soar every day. At one time we received about 15,000 IDPs in just a day.” Despite the hindrances, Plan has been working in Awerial under the nutrition programme. But when the IDPs started coming to Mingkaman, the children’s charity had to scale up support and started screening children to include them in the nutrition programme. Plan is also looking into other aspects of sanitation. “If it starts raining our fear is that there would be an outbreak of cholera. Open defecation is rampant and Plan is looking at activities we can integrate in,” says Graham.