South Sudan conflict: UN denies camp 'indifference'

A child in a flooded area at a UN camp in Juba, South Sudan (2014) Image copyright MSF
Image caption Diseases are rife at the camp because of the UN's failure to act, MSF says

The UN has rejected criticism that it is showing "shocking indifference" towards some 21,000 people sheltering at one of its compounds in South Sudan's capital, Juba.

On Wednesday, medical charity MSF said the group was "living in flood water contaminated with faecal matter".

The UN was doing its best to improve conditions, a UN official said.

The group sought refuge at the compound after fighting broke out between government and rebels in December.

'Unhelpful attack'

The UN has around 8,000 peacekeepers in South Sudan, the world's newest state.

More than one million people have fled their homes since the conflict began, while nearly one-third of South Sudan's population, about 3.7 million people, are at severe risk of starvation, according to the UN.

Toby Lanzer, the UN assistant secretary general in Juba, told the BBC the "very pointed attack" by Medecins Sans Frontieres was "unnecessary and unhelpful".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some displaced people have fled to neighbouring countries

"This is the base which was not created or planned for such an influx of people who need to stay alive and stay alive they have," he said.

"We've provided water, sanitation and I should mention the entire base is on the edge of the Nile.

"Everybody knew that flooding could be an issue, that there would be a public health risk and actually we welcome the MSF into the base, and would continue to do so, to work with us to address the public health concerns," he added.

Diarrhoeal diseases, respiratory infections and skin diseases had broken out among displaced people at the compound, MSF said in a statement.

About 150 latrines had collapsed, mixing with floodwater at the Tromping base, it said.

"People are living in natural drainage channels as there is no other space and there are 65 people per latrine," said Carolina Lopez, MSF's emergency co-ordinator.

The violence which caused the displaced people to flee erupted on 15 December between pro-government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and soldiers backing Riek Machar, his former vice-president.

President Kiir accused Mr Machar of plotting a coup, an allegation he denied.

A ceasefire was agreed between the two sides towards the end of January, but they have accused each other of violating it.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 after a long and bloody conflict, to become the world's newest nation.

Image caption 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.
Image caption 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.
Image caption 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.
Image caption 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.
Image caption 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.
Image caption 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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