News / Africa

MSF: Tomping Camp Conditions Appalling

Displaced people walk around Tomping camp in Juba, where some 15,000 people who fled their homes are sheltered by the United Nations, Jan. 7, 2014.
Displaced people walk around Tomping camp in Juba, where some 15,000 people who fled their homes are sheltered by the United Nations, Jan. 7, 2014.

Multimedia

Audio
  • Listen to De Capua report on Tomping base in South Sudan

Joe DeCapua
The medical aid group – Doctors Without Borders – describes conditions at a camp for the displaced in South Sudan as appalling. The group, also known as MSF, accuses the U.N. mission, UNMISS, of not doing enough to protect thousands of people there. U.N. officials deny the accusation and say protecting civilians is their top concern.
 
About 21,000 people are crowded into the Tomping U.N. peacekeeping base in Juba. People fled to the base after fighting broke out between government forces and rebels in December.
 
Stefan Liljegren -- MSF Project Coordinator in Juba – describes conditions in Tomping.
 
“They are cramped up in a very, very tiny area, which is known to be flood prone, and flooding has already happened due to rain. The humanitarian organizations have been pushing for more space. The UMISS here in Juba [is] really putting a lot of obstacles for humanitarians working here in this area. One obstacle after the other is being presented to us. Instead of finding solutions to the problems, they are postponing and changing ideas, and they’re giving a piece of land and taking it back again,” he said.
 
He said just getting from shelter to shelter is a problem.
 
“People have their houses in standing water -- and to reach a lot of these houses now you walk to walk through waters that are 10, 15, 20 centimeters deep.”
 
MSF warned conditions are ripe for an epidemic of diarrheal, respiratory and skin diseases.
 
UNMISS has announced plans to close the Tomping camp next month and move people to a base known as U.N. House or Juba house. It’s on higher ground.
 
The MSF project coordinator said it sounds good, but there are problems.
 
“It’s not a bad idea to move these people to another location, but the time frame on this is completely out of sync. Because the new place will not be ready in time to move these people. And, meantime, more space needs to be allocated within the U.N. compound so we can prevent potential very bad spread of diseases here.”
 
Liljegren said heavy rains will greatly slow or block any move to the U.N. House location, which already holds 11,000 displaced people. What’s more, he said, that humanitarian groups have encountered repeated obstacles or refusals from UNMISS to getting more space in Tomping.
 
“Some people are really understanding of the situation and are really helping us. But then local commanders or battalion chiefs are blocking – ‘no, you cannot have this space because I need it for my battalion’ -- and some other commander says, ‘no, I need one for containers’ -- and another says ‘I need this’ – and nobody’s giving,” he said.
 
He rejected UNMISS’ assertion that it’s doing all it can to help and protect civilians. 
 
“They are not doing everything they can,” he said, “not at all. They could have done a lot more a lot sooner. We have been asking for this for a long time.”
 
UNMISS spokesperson Ariane Quentier agreed conditions are bad at the Tomping base and said the situation is of great concern.
 
“It is of great concern for two reasons. One is that this place is not meant and appropriate to have thousands of people living there, but it is congested. And it’s always been congested from the first day because people literally flocked into our site, fleeing for safety when the violence erupted. The other concern is, of course, the rainy season. That makes the conditions even worse.”
 
She said UNMISS is well aware of the danger of a possible disease outbreak.
 
“If you take the combination of these two elements, which is the congestion of the camp and the rainy season, you have a situation where this protection site [is] turning into [a] death trap. Because if there is an outbreak of disease this will spread throughout the area like wildfire,” she said.
 
Quentier said UNMISS has a two-part strategy to deal with the situation.
 
“One is to try to have people relocating on a voluntary basis to other areas. What I’m calling other areas is either extension of existing sites that we have on our compound – or new sites on land made available to us by the government. And this is something we’ve asked the authorities from the very first day – to have more land to be able to decongest the site,” Quentier said.
 
About 1500 people of the 21,000 at Tomping have been relocated to other sites so far.
 
Part two of the strategy, she said, is improving conditions at existing sites, including water, sanitation and basic health services.
 
“We have been saving thousands of lives by the mere fact of opening our gates and having for the last three and a half months over 80,000 people who have stayed on our bases. And I think this is what the people wanted. They voted with their feet. They are still on our sites. And I think UNMISS has saved 85,000 lives, plus prevented the country [from] descending into worse chaos.,” she said.
 
Quentier added that UNMISS has a “duty to protect them.”

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid