Juba South Sudan

Thousands of refugees living in Juba are in dire need of improved living circumstances.
Image: Shutterstock

Senior officials of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) have refused to improve living conditions for over 21,000 displaced people living in a flood-prone UN compound that is exposing them to waterborne diseases and potential epidemics. International medical charity, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) called on the UNMISS to immediately take action. In a statement issued in Nairobi, MSF said those 21,000 people are living in natural drainage channels, with over 65 people per latrine.

With increasingly heavy rains coming over the next six months, the consequences could become fatal. The Tomping UN peacekeeping base, in the capital Juba, has been host to thousands of people who fled for their lives when conflict erupted in December. They are crowding into low-lying parts of the compound that are known to flood. In the MSF clinic in the camp, over 60 percent of visits are already for diarrheal diseases, respiratory infections and skin diseases.

The UN had originally planned to establish an alternative site, which has been frequently delayed and is now unrealistic. Several organizations, including MSF, have asked the UN to implement a temporary life-saving measure to expand the Tomping camp into available non-flooded space in the compound.

“The UNMISS decision not to improve conditions in Tomping is shameful,” says Carolina Lopez, MSF emergency coordinator. “In the first rainfall of the season 150 latrines collapsed, mixing with floodwater. People are living in natural drainage channels as there is no other space, and there are 65 people per latrine. The rains, which will last the best part of six months, are getting heavier and if nothing is done right now the consequences, already horrific, could become fatal. Whether as a permanent or as an interim solution, expanding into the dry parts of the compound has to be an immediate action.”