Saving the Displaced in South Sudan


South Sudan faces a humanitarian crisis. Clashes ongoing since December 2013 between the government and rebels have caused more than one million people to flee their homes since the conflict began.

MSF has been working in the region that today constitutes the Republic of South Sudan since 1983. MSF has 15 humanitarian aid projects in nine of South Sudan's ten states and responds to emergencies, including population displacements, refugee influxes, malnutrition and outbreaks of diseases such as measles, malaria, diarrhea and kala azar, in addition to providing basic and specialist healthcare services.

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Intense fighting broke out in Juba on 15 December 2013 and has since spread to many parts of the country. MSF emergency teams have increased response to affected regions. 

  • MSF currently runs 23 projects in nine out of 10 states in South Sudan
  • MSF runs projects in Agok, Aweil, Bentiu, Gogrial, Leer, Bor, Maban, Mayendit, Nasir, Nyal, Yambio, Lankien, Yuai, Pamat, Yida, Juba, Awerial, Malakal, Melut, Nimule, Dorein, Gumuruk, and Pibor.
  • Since 15 December 2013 MSF has carried out 330,679 consultations (of which 41% children are under five) and 8,320 deliveries, admitted 14,601 patients (of which 59% children are under five), treated 2,951 war wounded and carried out 2,538 major surgeries. 
  • More than 3,500 between international and local staff are on the ground. 
  • MSF is also providing aid to refugees from South Sudan in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.

Key medical figures:

  • 869,300 outpatient consultations
  • 204,800 measles vaccinations
  • 148,700 patients treated for malaria
  • 46,780 patients admitted to hospital
  • 1,320 patients began kala azar treatment

The massive influx of refugees into South Sudan caused Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to launch one of its biggest emergency programmes of 2012.

Conflict in Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan states led to the arrival of thousands of refugees in Unity state and Upper Nile state during the first half of the year. But the land is inhospitable: in the dry season water is scarce and the baked clay is extremely hard to drill, while in the rainy season it is a flood plain and only accessible by air. There is virtually no scope for agriculture or grazing animals. In Maban county, Upper Nile state, an estimated 110,000 refugees in four camps became entirely dependent on humanitarian organisations. However, their response failed to meet refugees’ basic needs, and in some camps mortality levels had reached double the emergency threshold by July.

MSF called for more humanitarian assistance as teams ran three field hospitals and seven outreach clinics across the camps, carrying out up to 8,000 medical consultations per week and caring for people suffering from the effects of lack of food and water and long journeys on foot. Staff provided treatment for malnutrition, skin and respiratory infections and diarrhoea. MSF also addressed the issue of water supply, managing boreholes and hand pumps.

A team worked in Yida refugee camp in Unity state, where the population quadrupled to 60,000 people between January and July. MSF offered inpatient and outpatient care, and operated four feeding centres.

By September, death rates had been brought under the emergency threshold. However, the camps were soon faced with an outbreak of hepatitis E – a potentially fatal virus transmitted through contaminated water.

The refugees remain entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance.

Violence and displacement in Jonglei state

Brutal intercommunal clashes continued to cause widespread displacement in Jonglei. People escaped deep into the bush, only to become vulnerable to malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory diseases.

In central Jonglei, MSF runs a hospital in Pibor town and two outreach clinics in the villages of Lekwongole and Gumuruk. The repercussions of an exceptionally bloody attack on Lekwongole and Pibor in December 2011, in which hundreds of men, women and children were killed or wounded and two MSF medical facilities were damaged and looted, persisted into 2012. People were coming from the bush weeks after the attack, seeking treatment for badly infected wounds.

Further attacks resulted in severe damage to MSF facilities in Lekwongole and Gumuruk in August and September. Again, tens of thousands of people fled and staff ran a makeshift clinic in the bush to provide basic and emergency healthcare. In total, MSF carried out more than 32,000 medical consultations across the three facilities in 2012. The resurgence of a rebel militia in this part of Jonglei state led to an increased military presence and almost daily clashes in the area by the end of the year.

In northern Jonglei, MSF runs a hospital in Lankien and an outreach clinic in Yuai. After Pieri village was burned down, the residents never returned. MSF therefore handed over the clinic, focusing instead on mobile medical assistance. Staff carried out 100,000 consultations and also treated 30,000 patients for malaria and 1,000 patients for kala azar (visceral leishmaniasis) during outbreaks in 2012.


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