May 7, 2014
Relief International Emergency Program Development Adviser, Alex Binns, gives us a close look at RI’s work in Maban County, South Sudan, where our team is helping meet urgent health needs through rural primary health clinics established in isolated communities and settlements for the displaced.
During my recent visit to RI’s field office in Maban County (located in Upper Nile State), as Emergency Development Advisor, I accompanied Mr. Alemayehu Tamene, the RI Nutrition and Health Technical Coordinator, to a number of locations in Upper Nile State where RI is providing emergency health services.
The indigenous host community in Upper Nile State is currently hosting displaced families in Abetytati and Banashowa, a remote location about 70km from Bunj town (the capital of Maban County). With the rainy season’s arrival imminent, the outlook for this displaced community is dire. There are currently no nutrition, water, sanitation, or health services available, apart from a small, nearly defunct water pump. It was not evident whether the host community had planted crops, but food supplies were dwindling fast. With the onset of recent violence, a critical planting season was disrupted and trade routes and food markets across the country were left in disorder.
The displaced, mostly women and young children, were temporarily settled on a low floodplain, in small three-walled (no ceiling) shacks made of reeds gathered from the surrounding areas. Most women and children were roaming the area, the former gathering firewood and shelter materials, and at great risk. Women are primarily responsible for gathering firewood, materials for dwellings (they also construct them) and water for domestic use. Often these resources are scarce and located at a distance from scattered settlements. During their daily journeys, women are vulnerable to gender-based violence, attack and abduction.
RI primary health clinic in Dangaji.
With the incoming rainy season, local RI staff are working with the community to construct a temporary health clinic on a hill to serve the community during the rains. To complete the health clinic as soon as possible, RI staff met with the high chief of the host community to discuss the necessity for storing the basic drugs for common diseases, anti-malaria tablets, painkillers and antibiotics that RI was delivering as part of an emergency response.
An RI doctor at Gasmalla checking on patients.
We also visited a number of primary health care clinics in a number of rural locations to check the registers and analyze the needs of the respective communities. RI delivered additional stocks of basic drugs to implement the capacity of the stores during the rains. I was introduced to RI local staff and a number of health personnel who were serving the community.
RI primary health clinic in Gasmalla (Upper Nile State).
From a personal perspective, it was moving to visualize the value of RI’s work in the field, especially as the leading provider of health services in Maban County, and to note the appreciation and positive affect that RI’s work has on marginalized communities in underserved and non-accessible areas.
Find out more about RI’s work in South Sudan here.
May 6, 2014
As peace talks resume in South Sudan, millions of people who have fled conflict remain in urgent need and face a looming hunger crisis. Continued violence and increasing displacement have contributed to a severe humanitarian emergency. As the crisis intensifies, our staff emphasize the urgent needs of families must be met before the approaching rainy season causes floods that cut off access to communities.
South Sudan, already suffering from drought, flooding, and extreme poverty, has been further crippled by violence that erupted along ethnic lines in December 2013 and the resulting internal population displacement. An agreement to cease hostilities was signed on January 23 earlier this year, but its real impact on the humanitarian situation remains unclear. So far, nearly one million people have been internally displaced by the conflict and 293,000 have fled to neighboring countries. Hundreds of thousands have lost their livelihoods and access to basic services. As the impact of the conflict and resulting needs become more protracted, RI and other humanitarian actors continue to extend and expand their crisis response plans to meet the urgent needs of the displaced and conflict-affected populations.
The overall effect of the crisis is the inability of South Sudanese people to meet their basic needs. Families do not have access to sufficient food, water, or health services which were already strained before the outbreak of recent violence, thereby aggravating malnutrition and health related problems.
With the onset of the rains, flooding will leave many underserved communities without basic services for at least six months, as current infrastructure restricts access. Additionally, the current political and security situation, including impediments to humanitarian workers, creates additional stress for the South Sudanese, especially the displaced persons, host communities, and refugees in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity States.
While these challenges, including dangerous operating conditions and constrained humanitarian access, continue to impede humanitarian agencies from reaching those in need, current humanitarian financing is not sufficient to ensure that operations are funded.
RI staff checking medicine stock lists.
Despite these enormous challenges, RI is committed to assist all populations in need. RI is currently expanding its response to reach as many people as possible prior to the rains (specifically refugees, displaced persons and host communities in Maban County who have been indirectly affected by the crisis). In the Doro refugee camp, RI, with support from the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, is focusing on building sustainable services by improving water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) which will include borehole rehabilitation, construction of latrines and hafirs (water reservoirs), hygiene promotion, and waste disposal management. RI will also be improving access to healthcare by stocking medicines and renovating the Bunj clinic.
RI’s work in Maban will focus on peace building and improving tensions over shared resources. With the outbreak of violence this past December, displaced persons from Malakal, Renk, and other areas in the Upper Nile have flooded into Maban, nearly doubling its population in a matter of weeks. Maban also hosts refugees from Sudan’s Blue Nile State. This has created tensions with host communities over a lack of already-strained resources.
RI’s goal is to reduce tension by organizing groups to cooperate through conflict resolution forums and discussions, shared natural resource management, and livelihoods programming. Our team will be working alongside communities to help them build sustainable livelihoods through agricultural support, small start-up grants, vocational and skills training, and trainings on sustainable environment management.
Find out more about RI’s work in South Sudan here.
March, 30 2012
Today’s photo update from Relief International volunteer and Deputy Community Service Coordinator, Bashir Mohamed, reporting from the field:
This girl is grinding Sorghum as part of routine meal preparation. Her name is Sarina and she is nine years old. The baby she is carrying is one of her twin nephews, Younis.
Sarina’s family, including her father Bell, mother Saima, and twin nephews, Younis and Julliet, arrived in Doro four months ago. They had fled from Belila, which is located in the Blue Nile State of Sudan, because of the increasing violence and conflict in the community.
Sarina is grinding Sorghum in the picture below.
March 22, 2012
Today’s update from Relief International Volunteer and Deputy Community Service Coordinator, Bashir Mohamed, reporting from the field:
This photo was taken during one of my meetings with the Sheikh of Balila (Balila is a sub-section of the Doro refugee camp) as he signed a list of approved tent recipients. Sheikhs are local elders who serve as community and/or religious leaders, much like chiefs and tribal representatives.
The photo below shows the Sheikh of Balila busy looking over assessment documents which he is signing.
My meeting with the Sheikh of Balila is part of a process that Relief International engages in along with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to collaborate with sheikhs who are representatives of refugees. One of the things we collaborate on is informing the sheikhs of tent assessments and their corresponding criteria to be conducted in the camp. The purpose of these tent assessments is to find out how many families, many of whom are newly arrived refugees, are in need of shelter.
Relief International and UNHCR look to the sheikhs to give approval and advice to conduct aid assessments in their communities. Working closely with community leaders is important so that Relief International can learn about what families in camps like Doro need most.
Once we have completed the assessment and created a list of families who need shelter, we take this list of beneficiaries back to the sheikhs for verification and signature.
March 6, 2012
Relief International aid worker Tiare Cross reports from the Doro Refugee Camp. Here is her post from today and photo update.
Today in Doro Refugee Camp, children’s activities started. I came upon this mob of exuberant children in the camp jumping rope. There were only ten jump ropes for approximately 100 plus children, but they were enjoying themselves in groups taking turns with the rope.
The photo above shows all the excited children that showed up for children’s activities today.
It is great to see kids smiling and playing, especially after they have made a hard journey from Blue Nile State to the refugee camp in Doro. Daily life for kids is not easy, many of the boys fish during the day at the river, bringing home a much needed protein source for their families. The girls spend most of the day bringing water and cooking for their families, as well as looking after other children. School starts in April here in South Sudan, and we know that getting children back to school is a top priority for the refugee families.
Below is a photo of child refugees jumping rope at the Doro Refugee Camp where Relief International is working.
March 14, 2012
Relief International volunteer, Bashir Mohamed, reports from the Doro Refugee Camp of Mabaan, South Sudan. He is currently setting up tents as a part of a project that provides around the clock assistance to newly arrived refugees and local families in Mabaan.
Today is my fourth week volunteering with Relief International as the Deputy Community Service Coordinator in the well-known Doro refugee camp of Mabaan, South Sudan. I am currently working on operations for a shelter project that is being funded by UNHCR and implemented by Relief International and have watched as our refugee team in Mabaan work around the clock providing assistance to both the newly arrived refugees as well as those who are settled here.
Today, as part of our routine activities, our team pitched 27 tents in the camp. Mrs. Hajara is the female head of her household and one of 27 families selected from Sorkum (a Doro camp sub-section) to receive a tent from Relief International. Before she received the tent, Hajara and her family of eight did not have a proper shelter. As you can see in the photo, all they had was a small hut that consisted of poles covered by whatever the family could find (mainly pieces of cloth, empty Sorghum sacks, and plastic sheets).
Mrs. Hajara, her husband, and their seven children had fled from Surkum village, located in the Blue Nile state of Sudan, due to the eruption of violence and internal wars in the region. They were not able to bring many of their belongings and her husband went back later to retrieve what they had left behind. Mrs. Hajara has not heard of her husband since, but she hopes that her husband will one day come back home safely.
These two photos depict Mrs. Hajara and her family’s situation before and after they received the tent from Relief International. The photo above was taken in front of their old hut, while the second photo was taken in front of their newly pitched tent.
"Now we own a house, it’s not a tent for us, but before we were homeless," said Mrs. Hajara after receiving her new tent.
As you would notice from the faces of the second photo below, Mrs. Hajara, her children and I are all happy because the family´s lack of shelter nightmare is past.