News / Africa

In South Sudan, Once Bustling Malakal Now a Ghost-town

A woman walks through the UNMISS camp in Malakal, where rain has turned the dirt paths into mud.
A woman walks through the UNMISS camp in Malakal, where rain has turned the dirt paths into mud.

"I have never seen conditions like these in my life."

That's how World Food Program (WFP) spokeswoman Challiss McDonough described what she saw when she visited at the U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Malakal last week with WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin and UNICEF head Anthony Lake.

Around 17,000 people have sought shelter at the U.N. base in the capital of Upper Nile state that has witnessed some of the worst fighting in South Sudan's seven-month conflict.

There's only activity in a couple of places and this enormous population living in a lake of mud at the U.N. base.

"People are living on top of each other, and it's the rainy season now," McDonough said. "The place where people are staying has turned into a sea of mud."

During the U.N. officials' visit to the UNMISS camp, "We got caught in a downpour that turned the place into a giant raging river," she said.

From trading hub to ghost-town

Outside the walls of the U.N. compound, the town of Malakal itself has been turned from a bustling trading post on the banks of the White Nile River into a ghost-town, McDonough said.

"Malakal is one of the larger cities in South Sudan, and today it's practically abandoned," she said.

Shrubbery has overtaken parts of the South Sudan town of Malakal that used to be bustling with activity.
Shrubbery has overtaken parts of the South Sudan town of Malakal that used to be bustling with activity.

"You see streets that have grown up with tall grasses, shrubs, sorghum but eight months ago, it was a thriving bustling city with many thousands of people living there.

"Now, there's only activity in a couple of places, and this enormous population living in a lake of mud at the U.N. base," McDonough said.

Aid agencies are working as best they can to prevent disease outbreaks at the UNMISS camp, McDonough said.

You see streets that have grown up with tall grasses, shrubs, sorghum. It's completely abandoned.

"But they need additional resources and  more space," not just for displaced South Sudanese but also for  humanitarian workers, who are living in the same "appalling conditions" as the displaced in the U.N. camp in Malakal.

Government and opposition forces have fought pitched battles for control of Malakal, the capital of South Sudan's largest oil-producing state.

When the fighting first reached the town in late December, tens of thousands of people fled, either to rural areas that they considered safe or to the U.N. compound.

But, since then, "the fighting has spread from the cities to the rural areas where people initially felt safe... and the people have had to move again and again and again," McDonough said. 

World Food Program's Challiss McDonough says South Sudan's Malakal a ghost-town
World Food Program's Challiss McDonough says South Sudan town of Malakal a ghost-town i
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Comment Sorting
by: Deng kuol lualdit from: Aweil
August 03, 2014 4:02 PM
We citizen of south sudan are only hopping Almighty God to help us from the power greedy leaders not only south sudanese but also white farmers plus Igad who r enjoying the complication of peace talk in addis ababa

by: koug from: Cairo
July 30, 2014 2:59 PM
Really I feeling very sorry my city's town was been disdoryed Malakal by Nuer people killing innocent people because they're not human being ...We help would to saving our people's life please we need your our people's going to deaths.

by: McOyit from: Cape Town
July 30, 2014 1:40 PM
I feel so sorry for people of my home city Malakal. Thousands have lost their lives and thousands are starving plus thousands are live in extremely terrible humanitarian situation in South Sudan, just simply because of one called rebel and another one protecting his government.

Shame on u guys! Anyone who did bad against people of South Sudan, will never walk Away and go free! Even some people see themselves above the law, but God is watching.

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