United Nations officials have signed an agreement with the government of South Sudan and the Chinese embassy to build a new camp in Juba to house thousands of South Sudanese who were forced from their homes by nearly three months of fighting.
The new camp will be used to house some of the thousands of displaced people who sought shelter at U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) bases after fighting erupted in Juba in December and quickly spread around the country.
The South Sudanese government provided land for the 600,000 square metre site, adjacent to the UN House base in the Jebel.area of Juba, and Chinese companies led by the China National Petroleum Corporation will provide machinery and $1.6 million to fund the project, which is expected to accommodate more than 10,000 people.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Charles Manyang, Chinese Ambassador Ma Qiang and UNMISS Deputy Director of Mission Support Anne Marie van den Berg signed the agreement Tuesday to build the new camp.
Van den Berg said the new site would provide better shelter, drainage, sewage structures and other infrastructure than those available on UNMISS bases, where she said almost 30,000 people have sought refuge since fighting broke out nearly three months ago.
A young girl washes clothes alongside a row of tents in the United Nations camp in Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 12, 2014.
Many of the displaced "fear going home", she said, even though Juba has been relatively calm for the past two months.
But staying at the U.N. bases, which were not built to accommodate tens of thousands of displaced, would lead to other problems, both for the people seeking refuge and for UNMISS, said van den Berg.
“Very soon the rainy season will start and our compounds will not be safe because rain will enter into the areas where they are housed," she said.
Manyang said the new camp would allow "our citizens who are not staying in their own houses not to be met with rains when they don’t have adequate shelter.”
“We will cooperate with the United Nations, but that does not construe in any way that the safety of our people will not be in the hands of our government,” he added.
Construction of the new camp will begin immediately and is expected to be completed in about six weeks, said Ambassador Qiang, who led a delegation for a ground-breaking ceremony at the site in Jebel.
“It is good that we are making further efforts to help the South Sudanese people overcome difficulties," Qiang said.
"On the other hand, these kinds of difficulties should not have happened,” he added.
Thousands are believed to have been killed and some 900,000 displaced since South Sudan plunged into violence in December.