‘Fear and uncertainty’ in South Sudan

Scenes in Sotuh Sudan. Scenes in Sotuh Sudan.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014
2:33 PM

A Honiton charity worker speaks of her experience in the country.

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18 month old Nyakuma in Concern's stabilisation centre, Juba, South Sudan. She was severely dehydrated and  malnourished. Photo: Deborah Underdown.18 month old Nyakuma in Concern's stabilisation centre, Juba, South Sudan. She was severely dehydrated and malnourished. Photo: Deborah Underdown.

A Honiton charity-worker who travelled to South Sudan has seen for herself the ‘fear and uncertainty’ in the country as a result of the conflict that has forced 9,000 people to flee their homes.

Deborah Underdown works for Concern Worldwide UK and recently returned to the country where the charity is helping with food distribution, the screening and treatment of malnutrition, as well as providing better access to safe drinking water.

“It was sad to travel back to South Sudan under these circumstances,” says Deborah. “When I last visited South Sudan there was a lot of hope in the country. It was a new country and people were looking forward to the future. Things have changed so much – now when I meet people all I hear about is fear and uncertainty.

“The conflict has resulted in untold suffering - 3.7 million people are in need of food aid, 900,000 people have been forced from their homes, and thousands more have been injured or killed.”

18-month-old Nyakuma is now able to sit up and play with toys. This photograph was taken by Deborah two days after the baby was admitted to Concern's stabilistaion centre in Juba, South Sudan.18-month-old Nyakuma is now able to sit up and play with toys. This photograph was taken by Deborah two days after the baby was admitted to Concern's stabilistaion centre in Juba, South Sudan.

Deborah spent most of her time in the two United Nations bases in the capital of Juba where thousands of people have sought safety from the violence.

She added: “We are extremely concerned about the deterioration of the health situation in the UN bases. The UN bases were not designed to host large numbers of civilians for long periods. For example, UN Tomping at most should host 4,000 to 5,000 people, but it now holds approximately 27,000.”

Deborah describes meeting a 16-year-old mother with her very poorly 18-month-old baby girl, who was admitted into Concern’s stabilisation centre where she was diagnosed with severe dehydration and malnourishment.

However, Deborah says on her return to the centre, two days later, she was greeted by the little girl who was toddling around inside. “She was like a different child. It was amazing to see the difference and to see that Concern is providing life-saving services.”

The child’s mother told Deborah that they had to leave their home in Juba in December after hearing gunshots. She said: “We ran from our home and decided to come here for safety. We couldn’t bring anything with us – just the clothes we were wearing.

“My husband went back to see our home but it has been looted and there is nothing there anymore. We can’t go home unless things change. We just hear that if people do go home they narrowly escape with their lives or die. We have to stay here. Until there are no more gunshots we can’t go home.”

The mother said the biggest challenge they face is the lack of food.

Aid agencies in South Sudan, including Concern, require US$1.27 billion to assist 3.2 million people up to June. For more information about Concern visit https://www.concern.net/en/

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