Africa

South Sudan crisis: 'Horrific conditions' in flooded UN camp

  • 8 August 2014
  • From the section Africa
Flooded UN camp in Bentiu
MSF says conditions in the camp were already difficult before the rain set in

At least 40,000 people who fled fighting in South Sudan are staying in horrific conditions at a UN camp, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says.

Many were living in knee-deep, sewage-contaminated floodwater with some sleeping standing up with children in their arms, the medical charity said.

MSF urged the UN to move the worst-affected to drier land in Bentiu.

Fighting between government and rebel troops has displaced at least 1.5 million people since December.

The UN is yet to respond to MSF's criticism.

Bentiu has changed hands several times since the crisis began and thousands of people have sought refuge in the UN camp in the town, situated in oil-rich Unity State.

With the onset of rains, MSF says the already harsh and overcrowded conditions in the camp have now become deplorable.

"With few possibilities for drainage, current living conditions in the camp are horrifying and an affront to human dignity," MSF's emergency co-ordinator Ivan Gayton said in a statement.

What began as a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, has escalated into ethnic violence.

Regional mediators have set a 10 August deadline for both sides to agree on a transitional government and implement a ceasefire.

The BBC's Ethiopia correspondent Emmanuel Igunza says a new round of talks in Addis Ababa this week initially stalled, but restarted on Friday afternoon.

Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in December 2013. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians' political bases are often ethnic.
Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
Both Sudan and the South are reliant on oil revenue, which accounts for 98% of South Sudan's budget. They have fiercely disagreed over how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state - at one time production was shutdown for more than a year. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north.
The two Sudans are very different geographically. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
After gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan is the world's newest country - and one of its poorest. Figures from 2010 show some 69% of households now have access to clean water - up from 48% in 2006. However, just 2% of households have water on the premises.
Just 29% of children attend primary school in South Sudan - however, this is also an improvement on the 16% recorded in 2006. About 32% of primary-age boys attend, while just 25% of girls do. Overall, 64% of children who begin primary school reach the last grade.
Almost 28% of children under the age of five in South Sudan are moderately or severely underweight. This compares with the 33% recorded in 2006. Unity state has the highest proportion of children suffering malnourishment (46%), while Central Equatoria has the lowest (17%).

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