The Forgotten Emergency in Sudan's Blue Nile State
By Jared Ferrie
Dozens of women and children were digging into the earth in a dried out
watering hole, in the Jamam refugee camp in South Sudan,in search of water.
/ Jared Ferrie/IPS
JAMAM, South Sudan, Mar 28, 2012 (IPS) - Hamid Yussef Bashir said he walked
for 17 days with his wife and five children to get to a refugee camp in
South Sudan. Here in Jamam, they joined about 37,000 other people who fled
from the war across the border in Sudan's Blue Nile state.
Conditions in the camp are not ideal, he said. There is a shortage of clean
water and his family will have to move their makeshift shelter before the
rains arrive and flood their camping spot. But they were lucky to survive
the journey here.
"We were facing hunger on the way, and that's how other people starved to
death," Bashir said. "And with the rains, a lot of people lost their lives
While Academy Award winning actor George Clooney's visit to war-torn
state-of-ghost-towns/%22> Southern Kordofan has made headlines around the
world, aid agencies are struggling to respond to the conflict in Blue Nile,
which has sent four times as many refugees across the border into South
The United Nations says there are about 82,500 Blue Nile refugees in camps
in Upper Nile, while some 20,000 have fled Southern Kordofan into South
Sudan's Unity state. The U.N. and the United States government have warned
that hundreds of thousands more could flee as food runs out in both states
where Sudan is fighting an insurgency.
Sudan's government is waging war against insurgents in both states, but
refugees and human rights groups say Sudan is also targeting civilians in an
aerial bombing campaign. Last week, the British and U.S. governments issued
statements demanding Sudan stop bombing civilians, and urging South Sudan's
government to cease providing military support to the insurgents.
The rebel Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) was formerly part
of the force that fought a two-decade civil war against Sudan, which
resulted in the south's secession. After independence on Jul. 9 last year,
the movement officially split and South Sudan's politicians have repeatedly
denied any ties with the SPLM-N.
Andrew Omale, an emergency coordinator with the aid agency
e-nile-state/%22http:/www.oxfam.org/%22> Oxfam International, said more are
expected as food runs out in Blue Nile, which lies south east of Khartoum
and borders Ethiopia.
"I must say it is very unfortunate that this emergency here is a forgotten
emergency," he told reporters on Mar. 22 during to a visit to the camp. "We
really appeal to the international community to support the refugees who are
here in Maban County."
Aid agencies are rushing to prepare the camp before the onslaught of the
rainy season within the next few weeks. Oxfam International is urging donors
to provide funds before that, as it will cost three times as much to move
food and other supplies into the area once the rainy season begins and road
access becomes difficult or even impossible in some areas.
The rains will also flood the area where most of the refugees are camping,
and agencies say they need to move them to higher ground.
e-nile-state/%22http:/www.msf.org/%22> Medicines Sans Fronteirs (MSF) warned
in an emailed statement on Mar. 14, "Only a short window of opportunity
remains before the rainy season severely inhibits the urgent provision of
Clooney recently visited Yida camp in Unity state, and crossed the border
into Southern Kordofan where he spoke to victims of the conflict. He has
since done a raft of interviews with U.S. media, met with President Barack
Obama, and testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The conflict in Blue Nile has received considerably less attention. "This
area here is a very difficult area to access, and probably that's why the
international community is not focusing attention here," said Omale.
Entisar Abas el-Mak, who arrived two months ago, was waiting outside the MSF
clinic with her baby. "Since I came here my child has been sick with
diarrhoea and vomiting four times now," she said.
Kirrily de Polnay, a doctor with MSF, said a shortage of clean water in the
camp is resulting in cases of severe dehydration and diarrhoea, along with
skin and eye infections, which accompany poor sanitation conditions.
Hy Shelow, the
e-nile-state/%22http:/www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home%22> U.N. refugee
agency's assistant representative for protection, said the water table is so
deep in most places that drilling machines available in Upper Nile have been
unable to penetrate it. He said the U.N. is bringing rigs that should be
able to drill 150 metres in order to hit water.
Oxfam International said it is trucking 160,000 litres a day from three
existing boreholes to distribution points where refugees receive about six
litres per person per day, which is the amount a person needs for basic
But some refugees, including Macda Doka Waka, said water ran out at the
distribution point before they were able to receive any. She and dozens of
other women and children were digging into the earth in a dried out watering
hole in order to extract water from waist-deep pits.
"We used to make lines and fetch water from the tap, but now two days we
don't have water and that's why all of us shifted here," she said. "Because
of too many people fighting at the water point, we end up fetching here
because we don't want to fight."
Waka said she fled Blue Nile two months ago, leaving her husband who is
fighting in the SPLM-N. She showed reporters her "digging stick", a
mud-encrusted iron rod. Then she continued to fill her container with water
scooped one cup at a time from the floor of a hole in the spongy, cracked
Then she went back to her pit in the spongy, cracked earth and continued
filling a container with water scooped one cup at a time.
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Received on Wed Mar 28 2012 - 17:40:10 EDT