News / Africa

Refugees at South Sudan's Yida Camp Sick, Hungry

Hannah McNeish

A week after bombs fell near the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan, shortages of supplies are taking their toll on the more than 20,000 people sheltering there. There is growing hunger and illness after many aid agencies pulled out because of fears of more attacks blamed on neighbor Sudan.

At Yida’s only clinic, local staff are working, around the clock, to try to treat the growing number of refugees needing medical attention.  The staff's international colleagues have not returned since the November 10 bombing.

The clinic is low on everything but painkillers and that is not what is needed to treat most of the 400 daily patients.  Nurse Caddy Ali, who works for Sudanese charity Youth For Freedom, says they have run out of antibiotics and will have no more treatment for malaria, the camp’s biggest problem. She hopes medicines can be flown in or that the U.S aid agency, Care International, which runs the pharmacy, will return soon.

"We are using the drugs that are already here. They have left since the bombing and they did not supply any drugs. If they did not get, we will face an emergency or maybe a crisis, as if people are sick and they cannot get drugs there will be a problem. Even the ones we are having here, it’s like the drugs we came with for our personal use," said Caddy Ali.

The clinic staff also say severe food shortages has caused a spike in anaemia and malnutrition - especially in children.

In Yida’s busy marketplace, with very little for sale, former teacher turned street vendor Bilal Issa Johar says that the lack of food is the refugees’ main concern.

"It is there, but it is very little. Because we are given little food here. All the people here they are complain[ing] about the food because it is not enough," said Joha.

Johar says that some refugees have already walked back home to a war zone in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan state to take their chances finding food there.

The United Nations suspended aid flights last week, after the Yida camp was bombed. With only a couple of small aid agencies on the ground and up to 300 people arriving from South Kordofan daily, Yida’s refugees are hoping that the food keeps coming and the bombs stop falling on both sides of the border.

Sudan rejected international accusations that it was responsible for incident.  But there are reports that Sudan is expanding its capacity to conduct air strikes along its border with South Sudan. The two countries have been at odds, since the South formerly gained independence in July.  

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