The head of Handicap International’s emergency mission in South Sudan, Céline Lefebvre, is leading a team of in one of the camps on the outskirts of the South Sudan capital of Juba to cater for the needs of the most vulnerable individuals. Thousands of families are living in extremely crowded conditions, with no reliable access to basic services. Fighting continues in several towns, which has led to further population displacements.
“I saw more families arriving in one of the camps in the capital, Juba, only yesterday," she says. "Some were carrying everything they could manage in a wheelbarrow. I also saw people with disabilities who had travelled this far to escape the fighting. Living conditions are extremely harsh, it’s very hot—more than 104°—and hygiene conditions are very poor.”
The fighting has continued this week in Bor, and intensified even further in Malakal, in the north of the country, heightening the vulnerability of displaced people. More than 410,000 people have been internally displaced, including 100,000 in Jonglei State alone. Around 75,000 people have taken refuge in neighboring countries.
“We have set up a DVFP, a disability and vulnerability focal point, in a camp in Juba where more than 12,000 displaced people live. We’ll use it to identify the most vulnerable people, such as the injured, pregnant women, older people and people with disabilities. They’re very fragile; they often find it hard to move around and don’t know who to turn to, so they really need aid that’s adapted to them.
"We can receive them, evaluate their needs and point them to other services or even case-manage them ourselves. Over the next few days, we’re going to hand out 250 “injury packages,” with the help of a nurse, so that people with injuries, who left the hospital, will have the equipment they need to care for light wounds, including bandages, disinfectant, small scissors, etc.”
A team led by a physiotherapist will organize rehabilitation sessions for the most vulnerable people and the injured to speed their recovery.
Handicap International is also planning to hand out 500 “protection packages” to women, including a radio to help them keep up with the news, a flashlight to move around at night, and a whistle to call for help. These simple items are vital for people living in conditions of extreme poverty in a region where security has been severely compromised.
Despite the difficulties to get supplies, Handicap International is currently transporting mobility aids from one of its bases to this camp in Juba. These aids include crutches, white canes and walking frames. Soon, the organization will also distribute wheelchairs.
“We’re working with other humanitarian organizations to be sure that they take the needs of people with disabilities into account in their relief efforts,” Céline says. “We point out how important it is to provide specific care to people who are extremely fragile.”
Handicap International’s current team is set to expand over the coming weeks. Relief activities are also set to expand to other affected sectors, including Bor, in the sector of Awerial, where more than 80,000 displaced people currently live.
Celine notes that Handicap International will use its expertise working in crisis situations to identify and provide guidance to the most vulnerable people in order to ensure they have access to humanitarian aid. This sometimes includes accompanying people with disabilities to care facilities or food distribution points. Handicap International is also planning to provide rehabilitation care to the injured to speed up their recovery and to reduce their chances of developing a permanent disability.
In general, South Sudan suffers from a shortage of basic services, food insecurity, and land contaminated by mines and explosive remnants of war. Small arms are also in widespread circulation, posing a permanent threat to the population. Moreover, since the country was formed, 100,000 refugees and displaced people have decided to return to their land and now require assistance. Central Equatoria State is the area facing the worst mine contamination, and is home to the highest number of victims of mines/explosive remnants of war and displaced people.
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