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20,000 displaced people in South Sudan reduced to eating leaves

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 12th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Reduced to eating leaves, more than 20,000 displaced people in South Sudan's Northern Bahr el Ghazal state face even worse conditions with the advent of the rainy season here. "These areas will be practically inaccessible, so the population will be completely isolated if pre-positioning of food and non-food (aid) items is not done right now," Médecins Sans Frontières,' or MSF, head of mission in South Sudan, Federica Nogarotto says.
 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The only humanitarian organization with a presence on the ground, MSF says that the northwest region's remote location will only make it more difficult to move supplies by road once the rains get heavier.

Calling for aid agencies to distribute food urgently and bring in stocks for the coming months, Nogarotto warns that if additional relief does not arrive, cases of malnutrition and malaria are likely to increase.

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The Northern Bahr el Ghazal state she says has been "neglected" due to the number of people in need in other parts of the two-year-old country is greater.

The undefined status of the displaced population in Northern Bahr el Ghazal is another factor. Refugees have fled fighting along the Kiir/Bahr al Arab river in the disputed border area between Sudan and South Sudan. Without being officially recognized as refugees, internally displaced or returnees, the responsibility for helping them remains unclear.

"Humanitarian agencies have struggled to understand what assistance to provide because it is difficult to determine the status of these people," Shaun Lummis, MSF's field coordinator in the state says.

Erecting mobile clinics, MSF is training community-based healthcare workers to help detect and prevent diarrhea, malaria and malnutrition. MSF is also running a basic clinic near the town of Pamat, focused on children less than five years of age and pregnant women.

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The displaced have doubled the region's population over the past year. The people here are living chiefly in 11 makeshift camps scattered across isolated parts of the state. Many have had to move several times.

Nogarotto says that many people have no access even to boreholes for water or plastic sheeting for shelter. Food is scarce.

"A part of these people are eating only tree leaves - they don't have land to plant anything to provide themselves with food, and they are not entitled to regular food distributions like a refugee or internally displaced person," she said.

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Major barriers to helping uprooted people in other parts of the world's newest country have been thrown up. On the second anniversary of South Sudan's independence, the United Nation's humanitarian coordinator there welcomed confirmation from the government and armed forces that humanitarian personnel could operate freely throughout the country.

Insecurity caused by clashes between different tribes, rebels and the army is making it extremely difficult for aid workers to do their job.

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