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S. Sudan’s Displaced: Running from Violence, Longing for Peace

  • Gabe Joselow

Violence has displaced hundreds of thousands of people across South Sudan, many of whom have taken refuge at United Nations bases across the country.

Nearly 400,000 are now displaced, and the numbers keep growing.

The conflict in South Sudan, rooted in a power struggle between the president and his chief rival, has taken the hardest toll on civilians.

About 20,000 people have taken refuge at a U.N. base in the capital, Juba.

The fighting has spared no one. Many in the camp come from the city’s middle class, and have left behind their homes and jobs in government.

Paul Khat Joak is an officer in South Sudan’s army, the SPLA.

“I will stay here as long as there is no peace. The peace will determine how long I will stay here,” says Joak.

Registered Refugees in South Sudan

Registered Refugees in South Sudan

Almost all here are Nuer, the ethnic group of former vice president Riek Machar, whose split with President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, ignited inter-ethnic killings across the country.

Engineer Michael Gatluak says he is afraid there could be more attacks.

“The situation is not safe. Even now we think there will be an attack because we don’t know what’s going on outside. Here in the camp, all these people are from one tribe only - they are Nuer. So this is the issue,” says Gatluak.

Aid agencies are trucking in water and food and stepping up immunization campaigns to help meet the growing needs.

In a sign the camp may be here for some time, the U.N. children’s agency is trying to set up classrooms for students to go back to school in February.

Helping coordinate the effort is chief of communications for UNICEF in South Sudan, Doune Porter.

“We’re trying to find some space where we can set up places that children will be able to learn, and also child-friendly places where children can play safely and be occupied. And there are also teachers here on the camp, so we’ve been meeting with teachers and trying to find a way so that when the school year begins, that there will be education for children,” says Porter.

The international community is pushing the warring factions to reach a peace deal. But with no immediate end to the fighting in sight, it will take time for those displaced to find their way home again.