In response to criticism from Doctors Without Borders, UN says it still intends to close "inadequate" camp

Doctors Without Borders lashed out at the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan for failing to provide adequate living conditions at its camp for the displaced in the capital city of Juba. The UN had earlier acknowledged the conditions were inadequate and announced in early April its intentions to close the camp in May. Camp conditions are threatened by the current rainy season.
By JC Finley  |  April 9, 2014 at 3:12 PM
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JUBA, South Sudan, April 9 (UPI) -- Doctors Without Borders criticized the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan for "shameful" living conditions at Tomping, its camp for the internally displaced in the capital city of Juba.

21,000 internally displaced people live at the crowded UN compound.

Doctors Without Borders emergency coordinator Carolina Lopez described the conditions at Tomping which, the medical charity said, is at risk of flooding in its low-lying areas.

“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.”

"The UNMISS decision not to improve conditions in Tomping,' Lopez charged, "is shameful."

UNMISS agreed that the conditions at Tomping were inadequate. On April 3, UNIMISS head Hilde Johnson addressed a news conference about the mission's challenges and objectives.

"It was always clear to us that our UN compounds were never designed to accommodate such huge numbers of people for such a length of time. The conditions have been very difficult from the outset. The sites are alarmingly over-crowded and basic services not more than rudimentary.

“With the rainy season now settling in, conditions are getting worse... As the rains increase, we all may find ourselves with a health catastrophe on our hands.”

The UN, Hilde said last week, has decided to close Tomping in May.

When asked to respond to the criticism from Doctors Without Borders, UN spokesman Farhan Haq acknowledged that Tomping camp was "never meant to hold so many people for so long" and that the UN was continuing to work to relocate residents.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan Toby Lanzer appealed to the international community for donations to assist with relief efforts, estimated to require $232 million for the next 60 days. "My message to donors is: Don’t be shy, don’t wait."

Violence broke out in South Sudan on December 15, 2013, when President Salva Kiir accused his fired deputy, Riek Machar, of attempting a coup. Fighting between forces loyal to the two men has continued since December, with the political dispute devolving into an ethnic conflict. The UN estimates that more than 3.7 million people are at risk of severe food insecurity, disease, and malnutrition as an effect of the violence.

[Doctors Without Borders] [United Nations] [New York Times]

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