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The Elders visit Sudanese refugees on peace errand

News Stories, 9 July 2012

© UNHCR/P. Rulashe
Archbishop Desmond Tutu meets a Sudanese refugee in Yusuf Batil.

JUBA, South Sudan, July 9 (UNHCR) Nobel Peace Prize laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president, visited Sudanese refugees this weekend in South Sudan's Upper Nile state along with Mary Robinson, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The three visited Yusuf Batil Camp on Sunday as members of The Elders, an independent grouping of 12 respected public figures dedicated to promoting peace and human rights and to finding solutions for other global problems. The organization was set up in 2007 by entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, musician Peter Gabriel and former South African President Nelson Mandela.

The day before South Sudan's one-year independence anniversary, the refugees told the visitors about their flight from villages in Sudan's Blue Nile state to escape fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North and the challenges and difficulties they now face.

"Even with the care they are receiving through UNHCR and other humanitarian actors, it is unacceptable that people who had their own lives, rearing livestock and living with dignity, can be made to live in this fashion," a moved Archbishop Tutu said at the camp, which houses 31,000 refugees.

Tutu, Ahtisaari and Robinson arrived in the South Sudan capital, Juba, on Friday and have met with President Salver Kiir to discuss talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia between Sudan and South Sudan. "It is crucial for the prosperity of both countries to realize that their futures are intertwined," said Tutu, adding: "Dialogue is the only way to resolve their differences."

The hostilities in Blue Nile and South Kordofan state have in less than a year forced more than 170,000 Sudanese to flee to South Sudan. About 112,000 have gone to Upper Nile State and 62,000 to Unity state, with many of them arriving exhausted, dehydrated and malnourished.

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Displacement in South Sudan: A Camp Within a Camp

In the three weeks since South Sudan erupted in violence, an estimated 200,000 South Sudanese have found themselves displaced within their own country. Some 57,000 have sought sanctuary at bases of UN peace-keepers across the country. These photos by UNHCR's Senior Regional Public Information Officer Kitty McKinsey give a glimpse of the daily life of the 14,000 displaced people inside the UN compound known locally as Tong Ping, near the airport in Juba, South Sudan's capital. Relief agencies, including UNHCR, are rallying to bring shelter, blankets and other aid items, but in the first days, displaced people had to fend for themselves. The compounds have taken on all the trappings of small towns, with markets, kiosks, garbage collection and public bathing facilities. Amazingly, children still manage to smile and organize their own games with the simplest of materials.

Displacement in South Sudan: A Camp Within a Camp

Emergency food distribution in South Sudan's Jonglei state

Humanitarian organizations in South Sudan are working to deliver emergency assistance to some of the tens of thousands of people displaced by armed conflict in Jonglei state. Most of those uprooted have fled into the bush or have walked for days to reach villages away from the fighting. Others have journeyed even greater distances to find sanctuary in the neighbouring countries of Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. Gaining access to those affected in an insecure and isolated area has been a significant challenge for aid workers. Since mid-July, an airlift has been providing food supplies to families living in two previously inaccessible villages and where humanitarian agencies have established temporary bases. As part of the "cluster approach" to humanitarian emergencies, which brings together partners working in the same response sector, UNHCR is leading the protection cluster to ensure the needs of vulnerable individuals among the displaced are addressed.

Emergency food distribution in South Sudan's Jonglei state

Thousands of refugees moved before the rains hit South Sudan

Since the beginning of May, an operation has been under way in South Sudan to move more than 18,000 Sudanese refugees to a newly built camp. Six days a week, around 500 people are transported from the Jamam camp in Upper Nile state to a recently constructed site called Kaya. South Sudan's long and intense rainy season will soon begin in earnest and the operation will move the refugees from a location prone to severe flooding to one designed to remain accessible and functional during the downpours. The rains leave large areas of the country cut off by flood waters for months. Residents of Jamam are assisted to move their household belongings and are allotted a plot of land on arrival in Kaya, where UNHCR partners have established schools and medical facilities. Newly arrived refugees from Sudan are also brought to Kaya, where they are provided with relief items and shelter. UNHCR's Tim Irwin was there with his camera.

Thousands of refugees moved before the rains hit South Sudan

South Sudan: Food Security Play video

South Sudan: Food Security

Jacob is plowing 20 kilometers far from his own home town, Bor, after having to abandon it due to the ongoing fighting in South Sudan. Now in Mingkaman camp,as a displaced person, this land he plows is all he has after losing farm and cattle back home
South Sudan: Flooding Disaster Play video

South Sudan: Flooding Disaster

Nearly 100,000 people are living in cramped, overcrowded camps in Mingkaman, in Rivers State, South Sudan. Whenever it rains, tents become flooded causing already fragile sanitation conditions to worsen.
South Sudan: Rainy SeasonPlay video

South Sudan: Rainy Season

As the rainy season approaches, the humanitarian situation in South Sudan remains critical. The rains will make it more difficult to bring in aid and if conflict continues, half of South Sudan's 12 million people could be in danger of starvation by the end of this year.