ALJABALAIN (Sudanow) - Southern Sudanese refugees in the White Nile State face a hoard of complications as well as a shortage in all services. And when the parties to the conflict in Southern Sudan finally were concluding a power sharing accord, the authorities in the White Nile State were blowing a warning whistle about the dire situation in the State’s refugee camps that house over 220,000 persons. Sudanow had visited that border area and received first-hand information about the problems and suffering of the refugees therein:
An Imminent Catastrophe:
At an emergency meeting with Elhadj As Sy, the general secretary of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the White Nile State Governor Alamin Abulkgasim Baraka revealed the presence of over 220,000 Southern Sudanese refugees, in addition to 100,000 Sudanese returning from South Sudan and 82,000 refugees living outside refugee camps in the State. Baraka said the State has 9 refugee camps distributed across the Alsalam and Aljabalain localities. He, in particular, stressed the presence of 82,000 refugees living outside the camps who need to be counted and enlisted for services.
He said the visit of the Federation’s official would reveal the ability of the NGOs to present services to the refugees.
Governor Baraka further warned that the White Nile State is a flood region that last year saw an outbreak of diarrhea among inhabitants living along the White Nile River bank. He said this situation had obliged his Government to set a coordination council with the Federal Government and NGOs in anticipation of a possible catastrophe.
The White Nile State’s Health Minister Tariq Beraige’ has warned concerned bodies about an imminent health and environmental catastrophe in the refugee camps if immediate intervention does not take place. He said liquid, hard and medical garbage are heaped in the open and this could lead to the multiplication of flies. By the beginning of the rainy season “we also expect the multiplication of mosquitoes”, he added.
The Minister has stated the inability of both international and national NGOs to render services and medical supplies. “If the international NGOs are unable to live up to their commitments, their presence is no use,” he said.
The Minister has also told the joint meeting with the Red Cross and Red Crescent official that absence of environmental sanitation and water drainage had deteriorated the environment of the camps. “We expect a catastrophe if no immediate action is taken,” warned Beraige’.
The Community’s Voice:
Speaker of the White Nile State’s Legislative Council Ismail Nawway has warned about growing grudge of the local population against the refugees of Southern Sudan to whom they ceded their land. “The humanitarian effort has loopholes that need to be redressed. Efforts should be pooled, because this situation is beyond the ability of the White Nile State,” he said.
Nawway said the NGOs had faced a lot of problems with the inflow of refugees and returnees from border zones who were attacked on the way and their belongings looted. “They came here empty handed,” he said.
“As a voice of the White Nile community, the State’s legislative council has received lots of complaints about the existence of problems in health, education and water,” he said, considering health as “a basic and important issue.”
For that reason, there is a need for health measures to be taken within the camps that see a tragic situation at the moment, he said.
“The White Nile community has opened its heart and its lands to the refugees,” he said.
The Humanitarian Aid Commission Is Critical:
Representative of the Humanitarian Commission Ahmed Osman said the problem has three dimensions: the refugees, the Sudanese nationals returning from Southern Sudan and the host community.
He blamed the International community for creating the problem when it backed from its duties and commitments and ignored this dossier while the Sudan is an original member in the UN and had had an effective role in the hosting of refugees. He urged the secretary of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to play a big role in effecting humanitarian interventions and an emergency plan to evade the catastrophe that could consequently destroy the White Nile State environment.
Osman called for immediate intervention with a viable strategy that protects the host communities. This could be done by an emergency plan to be supervised by the Commission to salvage the health of the district, he said.
He said his Commission was committed to speed up that plan through the mobilization of national and international NGOs operating under its umbrella.
Deputy Refugees Commissioner Mohamed Yasin Altuhami has indicated what he called “loopholes in all the axes of humanitarian aid with respect to health, education, environment and water.”
He said the host communities had ceded their land to the refugees who needed security and protection, while the NGOs, including the UNHCR, have failed to bridge the gap.
He called for boosting the existing partnerships through the building of capabilities and the redemption of harms inflicted upon the land and the environment “in order to evade the repetition of the harm caused by the refugees in Kassala.
He called for immediate support to the administrative and security authorities of the State “to meet these challenges.”
A Stumbling Bloc:
Sudanow has approached Sultan (Chieftain) Gargar of Alallagiyya Camp, Jebalain Locality, who thanked the Government of Sudan for hosting and protecting them. But he complained from “a host of problems” that face them. “Food rations are very little, very limited, with respect to sorghum, lentils and cooking oil. A kilogram per one card is what we get. This is not enough, given the existence of pregnant and lactating women among us,” he said.
Sultan Gargar also complained from the absence of many medicines in the health centers that face a continuous flow of refugees. “There are two hospitals that serve a number of refugee camps alongside all the citizens of Aljabalain Locality,” he said, urging for constructing a pathway between the camp supply centers and the Allalagiyya which is inundated with water during the rainy season, a matter that sets children into jeopardy. He said there is need for an emergency health center and a flour mill in the camp.
He also complained that children and women need to walk for two kilometers to fetch water and that classes, desks, school uniforms, latrines and text books are not enough for school children, complaining that the secondary school has but one classroom, a matter that forced students to study in two shifts.
Sultan Gargar has also said the camps had not been maintained for three years now and the camp mats are rotting.
Need For Alternatives:
Executive Director of Aljabalain Locality Alomda Ahmed said “we have accommodated the Southern Sudanese refugees in our homes and shared our food with them despite our meager resources.”
“But now we are facing a lot of problems: a scarcity in water and the absence of a medical doctor in the only health center we have, which is congested with patients. The health center has no inoculation unit for children and mothers has no gynecologist. The camp has just three water stations, two of which do not produce enough water when the river runs low,” he further complained.
He called for the provision of more latrines and for the provision of cooking fuel now that the surrounding forests are deteriorating.
Rehabilitation Of Water Stations:
Allalagiyya Camp Director Ahmed Alkhair said the camp houses 16747 families and 3663 students who need their camp to be re-planned and rehabilitated. The camp warehouse needs to be fenced and the security needs a means of transport. He called for the refugees to be provided with income generating projects and for the rehabilitation of water stations.
Secretary General of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Elhadj As Sy said “we did not come here like tourists or to look at your suffering. The camps are not exemplary, but this situation was dictated by the life conditions. There are many others like you. From what you have said we have seen how proud you are. The Government and the local community have exerted a big effort, but, relief -wise, that is not enough. We have to thank the Government of Sudan that opened the border to receive the refugees. We are committed to work for resolving the problems, avail all the needs and determine priorities with the Sudan Red Crescent Society. We will work to let the world hear your voices. We will urge the partners in humanitarian action to make our work real and safe,” he said.
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