To mark World Humanitarian Day on 19 August, Nyika Musiyazwiriyo, our Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Horn and East Africa Region, reflects on a recent trip to a refugee camp in South Sudan.
“I have never seen so much death in my life,” said Abdullahi. “There are people and tents all over. There is overcrowding. There is no work, no money and no prospect of making money. Our biggest problems are illnesses – diarrhoea, malaria, eye diseases – a shortage of food, a lack of money and a lack of clothing.”
I met Abdullahi a few weeks ago in Jamam refugee camp in South Sudan, where I was carrying out an emergency needs assessment for CAFOD. Abdullahi and his family were forced to leave their village in Blue Nile State, Sudan, because of heavy fighting and the threat of being bombed. They walked for days, in fear of their lives, before getting a lift to the border with South Sudan.
The conditions they found in Jamam refugee camp were shocking. There is overcrowding, poor sanitation, flooding, and a lack of food and medicine. Diarrhoea and malaria are rife, and children are dying needlessly from these preventable illnesses.
More than 30,000 refugees are living in Jamam, and at least 70,000 are in other nearby camps. Many of the refugees were already malnourished when they arrived, having walked for weeks with virtually no food. The statistics are chilling: nine children are reported to be dying every day in Jamam alone.
I met Abdullahi’s wife Jamila, who had malaria – the medicine she’d received at the camp clinic didn’t seem to be working. Their five-year-old daughter, sharing the same tent, was even more seriously ill.
“The camp clinics are trying their best, but people are dying.” Abdullahi told me. “When someone goes to the clinic, they don’t return. Back at home people used to die, but not at the rate which we are witnessing here.”
Meeting Abdullahi made me reflect on what it means to be a humanitarian worker. Continue reading