South Sudan: Disaster in Bentiu
“With the arrival of the rainy season and the continuation of conflict, the situation in Bentiu can only be described as a disaster” says CARE’s Program Coordinator Alain Lapierre. Over 44,000 people are sheltered in the protection areas in the UN base in the town of Bentiu, searching for safety and struggling daily to survive daily. “It is challenging to preserve their dignity”, Lapierre continues. “Infants are often too weak when they reach our medical facilities. Their families arrived after days of walking, without food, water or shelter. Last week alone, 18 children died from malnutrition or diarrhea here in the Bentiu protection areas.” The rainy season hampers the aid effort severely, in a country with very few paved roads.
CARE South Sudan’s Country Director Aimee Ansari just returned from visiting CARE’s mobile clinics. “I spoke to a woman with a one-month old baby. The baby had signs of malaria and malnutrition and I fear she will not survive. The mother was getting very little nutrition herself; she had almost no milk and no food. Our clinical officer did what he could but, given the fighting in this area, it is likely that it’s too dangerous for the mother to return for regular treatment. That’s the horrendous choice South Sudanese women have to make: returning to the clinic would put the woman at risk of rape or assault and yet, not returning would mean her child will almost certainly die.” CARE has set up clinics which provide emergency nutrition and medical assistance.
What is happening in Bentiu?
An outbreak of violence has led to the displacement of tens of thousands of people in the area since May. People continue to arrive to the protected settlements where in only a few weeks, the population has risen from 5,000 to over 44,000. Displaced families are staying in tents or temporary shelters that lack safe water and latrines. Humanitarian access is already difficult, but to make matters worse, heavy downpours and winds on June 13 caused widespread damages to shelters and latrines in the settlements. The shelter and sanitation situation is critical and life threatening, as security concerns continue to be tense, and more heavy rains are expected in the coming weeks.
Diarrhea, malaria and malnutrition have spiked and have been deadly for children under the age of five. The displaced persons are in dire need of water, food and health care. They are too afraid to return to their homes because of violence and lack of basic services.
What is CARE doing?
In the Bentiu area, CARE has a team operating a mobile health clinic and two nutrition centers and is carrying out health, nutrition and WASH activities along with other NGO partners. Across South Sudan, CARE is scaling up our response to the humanitarian crisis wherever possible, providing lifesaving assistance to vulnerable refugees and displaced persons.