News / Africa

Refugees in South Sudan Determined to Stay

An infant with nasally inserted feeding tube at the nutrition center, Yida refugee camp, South Sudan, Dec. 12, 2011.
An infant with nasally inserted feeding tube at the nutrition center, Yida refugee camp, South Sudan, Dec. 12, 2011.
Michael Onyiego

Next to the storehouse in Yida's village square, refugees line up for food rations meant to last their families the rest of the week. Each person receives three kilograms of sorghum. It’s not much, but it is all that can be spared.

Food has been sparse since the South Sudan camp was bombed in early November, and international organizations, including the World Food Program, have pulled out, ending regular shipments.

The majority of the food now comes from Canadian missionary organization Samaritan’s Purse. The group, which pulled only its international staff, still ships in some food by plane, but it's not enough to feed the entire camp.

The situation has only been exacerbated by recent fighting near the border, where Sudanese Army forces and the army of South Sudan battle each other in Jau, a town some 30 kilometers away.

The United Nations is hoping to move the camp's inhabitants to a safer area, but the refugees don't want to go, saying they would rather stay in Yida, where they hope to build their lives.

Children in need

In the Samaritan’s Purse nutrition center, Ramadan Abbas, an infant, sits with his older sister Estedad after receiving emergency feeding. Ramadan’s feeding tube has been inserted through his nose and taped to his face. His hands have also been taped to prevent him from removing it.

Estedad says Ramadan, who had not been eating and started to become sick, recently started having diarrhea and vomiting. One of more than 500 children in Yida who have become malnourished since the regular food shipments stopped last month, he has improved over the past two days.

The camp’s health coordinator, James Konda, also a refugee, says the food shipments are not only too little, but lack nutritional variety.

"It is the first time that I saw today they distributed [cooking] oil - it has never been distributed here," says Konda. "What I saw is only sorghum and sometimes beans. So the provision of proteins, even second-class proteins, is not provided adequately for the people."

With as many as 24,000 refugees living in Yida, and some 300 arriving each day, the nearby fighting only hampers United Nations efforts to provide, let alone expand, relief. U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR, desperately wants to relocate Yida’s population to Nyeel, 73 kilometers south, where it can allow them to provide greater assistance in a safer environment.

Resolved to stay in place

But refugees say the proposed site in Nyeel is a swamp and they don’t want to go.

"Our people are mountainous people," says Hussein Al Gumbullah, chairman of the Yida camp. "It is a danger for them to stay in jungles or swamp areas."

The refugees in Yida are mainly farmers from the Nuba mountains, and they argue that they will not be able to provide for themselves if moved to Nyeel.

And for many, dangers at Yida don't compare to the daily bombings they survived in Sudan’s South Kordofan state.

Even Estedad, with her younger brother in the nutrition center, says she prefers to stay in Yida, explaining that she feels safe here. While she sometimes worries that the Antonov planes of the Sudanese air force may return, she doesn’t want to move to Nyeel.

While getting food into camps remains a problem, things are improving in Yida - refugees have established schools for the children, and relations with the local community are good.

But UNHCR is still trying to convince the refugees to move to Nyeel. Discussions between refugee leaders and UNHCR officials appear deadlocked, but, in the meantime, the refugees in Yida are determined to carry on with their lives.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs