Outside Renk Transit Centre people have inadequate shelter (credit: Nasir Ghafoor/MSF)
Since Sudan’s conflict erupted four months ago, MAF has undertaken more than 33 flights carrying nearly 200 passengers and over 26 tonnes of cargo in aid of relief efforts. MAF’s been supporting Renk’s transit camps in neighbouring South Sudan, which are overwhelmed by the influx of refugees. MAF’s Jenny Davies brings us the latest
At least 4,000 people have been killed and 4.3 million displaced, since Sudan’s conflict began in April. Over one million refugees have fled to neighbouring countries including South Sudan (source: UN).
UNICEF: Over 2M children are displaced due to Sudan’s conflict (credit: Jenny Davies)
Destitute people are waiting to be relocated in South Sudan (credit: Jenny Davies)
In South Sudan’s northern border town of Renk, the main transit centre is designed to accommodate 4,000 people, yet with around 1,000 refugees arriving every day by truck, the centre – and its surrounding makeshift camps – are currently hosting at least 12,000 people, putting huge pressure on few resources.
Living conditions – exacerbated by the rainy season – are dire. There simply is not enough food, clean water, shelter, medical care and toilets for the growing number of people in desperate need.
The rainy season is making life in Renk extremely difficult (credit: Nasir Ghafoor/MSF)
Whilst fleeing to Renk from Sudan, there have been reports of robbery en-route to the camps, with refugees arriving without any money or possessions.
Separated families are all too common. Many people fled Sudan in different directions, losing contact with relatives. Many don’t know where their children are. Despite finally reaching a place of safety, contacting loved ones without a mobile phone or any other means is practically impossible.
Most people are in makeshift tents outside transit centre (credit:Bashir James/Cordaid)
Others with a roof over their head are the ‘lucky’ ones (credit: Bashir James/Cordaid)
In recent weeks, Renk Transit Centre has also seen intercommunal clashes break out amongst refugees, causing further tension amongst the camps.
Funding cuts to global humanitarian aid have not helped the situation either. The relief efforts in response to Sudan’s conflict are only 10% funded (source: Cordaid International).
‘The biggest challenge is to get people out of there.’
MAF pilot Ide Gooden is very pleased to fly people out of Renk (credit: Jenny Davies)
MAF pilot Ide Gooden who has been on the frontline of MAF’s response confirms the bleak reports:
‘The camps are just horrible for people, so I’m glad that we’re able to take these people out. We’ve been flying lots of kids and families to Juba.
‘The biggest challenge is to get people out of there and to bring stuff in to help the
people who still have to stay a bit longer. MAF is really helping the situation but there’s only so much you can take in the Caravan.’
Ide Gooden, MAF pilot
The transit camps, which are supposed to be just that – temporary – before people are relocated elsewhere in South Sudan, are hosting people for longer than hoped.
1,000 refugees arrive every day by truck during the wet season (credit: Jenny Davies)
Bottlenecks, caused by extremely muddy road conditions, are impeding the flow of trucks transporting aid into the camps and refugees in and out of Renk.
MAF has been helping to relieve pressure within the camps by relocating people by air, medevacking the most vulnerable to hospital and flying in aid and services. Partners include Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Cordaid International, Citizen’s Call, Concern South Sudan, the UN’s International Organisation for Migration, Caritas, the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Every Home for Christ.
MAF takes off from Renk relocating refugees to Juba (credit: Jenny Davies)
MAF flies cargo into Renk including buckets for water & sanitation (credit: Jenny Davies)
MAF’s Disaster Response Team have reallocated an additional pilot and plane from Uganda in a bid to meet the growing demand.
Out of the frying pan into the fire
When refugees arrive at Renk, a health crisis awaits them (credit: Jenny Davies)
Having fled for their lives from Sudan, refugees are facing a health crisis on arrival at Renk.
Some refugees already infected with measles are reportedly entering South Sudan at Jodda on the border before making their way to Renk. At the camps, the disease is spreading quickly due to overcrowding. Every day, children are dying from measles.
MSF has set up 3 mobile clinics in Renk like this one (credit: Nasir Ghafoor/MSF)
In response, MAF partner MSF has set up three mobile health clinics in Renk including a measles isolation ward in a bid to manage the outbreak of the disease.
Malnutrition, diarrhoea, dehydration and malaria are also rife within the camps.
MSF nurse Dawai Apayi treats 3-month-old Atuong Juma who is suffering from diarrhoea & dehydration. She’s referred to Renk Hospital (credit: Nasir Ghafoor/MSF)
MSF are also providing mental health support, delivering health education, referring patients to hospital who need specialist care and treating up to 90,000 litres of river water per day to make it safe to drink (source: MSF).
MSF treat 90K litres of water per day to make it safe to drink (credit: Nasir Ghafoor/MSF)
MAF has delivered around four tons of essential medical supplies to MSF’s mobile clinics including medicines, latex gloves, malaria tests and oral rehydration solution.
MAF’s delivered 4 tons of medical supplies to MSF clinics in Renk (credit: Jenny Davies)
According to MSF, the medical team are seeing over 100 patients every day. MSF nurse Dawai Apayi is concerned about the future:
‘It is crucial to meet people’s basic needs by providing them with shelter, clean water and hygiene facilities. If these needs are not addressed promptly, we fear disease outbreaks and a health catastrophe that could endanger the lives of thousands.’
Dawai Apayi, MSF nurse
Without MAF’s three-hour flight to Renk from the capital Juba, it would take MSF and other relief agency partners several days of overland travel to reach Renk’s camps.
Flying with MAF is also infinitely safer than road or river transport where aid convoys in South Sudan are often targeted by armed gangs.
‘The situation is really bad’
On 17 July, MAF delivered almost a ton of mosquito nets, blankets and soap to Renk for partner Cordaid International – an agency which supports fragile and conflict-affected countries.
MAF delivers mosquito nets & soap to Renk for Cordaid (credit: Jenny Davies)
The cargo was immediately put to good use helping to prevent malaria, waterborne and respiratory diseases, which are claiming the lives of vulnerable people.
The overcrowded conditions and wet-season downpours are making refugees vulnerable to malaria due to pools of standing water where mosquitos can breed.
Standing water is causing mosquitos to breed & spread malaria (credit: Jenny Davies)
Skin conditions are also caused by bathing in dirty water. Bashir James – MAF passenger and Cordaid’s humanitarian aid programme manager – explains the unfolding dilemma:
‘The water supply is insufficient for the increasing population and open defecation is widespread because the sanitation facilities are not sufficient for the number of people.’
There are not enough toilets for thousands of people in the camps (credit: Jenny Davies)
Tom Otieno – fellow MAF passenger and Cordaid’s country director – is concerned about cholera, which is deadly:
‘There’s a high chance of getting cholera in a camp with limited sanitation facilities. When people openly defecate, their faecal matter goes into that water supply when it rains. People who don’t have access to water will drink anything that comes their way.
‘We’re planning to send a village pump there that can take the dirty water and make it good for use. If they cannot access clean water, we have to be innovative and see how best we can use available water so that if people drink it, they won’t contract any diseases.’
‘The situation is really bad’ says Cordaid’s Andrew Ngugi (credit: Bashir James/Cordaid)
Andrew Ngugi – Cordaid’s health programme manager – sums up the situation:
‘The situation is really bad actually. Until you see what is happening, you cannot know the level of needs that are here. It’s always bad in refugee camps, but it shouldn’t be this bad.’
Despite the awful conditions of the camps, many refugees are just grateful to get away from the fighting. Tom recalls one lady’s touching story:
‘She said it was the first time she slept without worrying about gunshots or someone dropping a bomb. She slept outside but still felt relief that no-one was trying to kill her anymore.
‘Even in the midst of all the camp’s problems, she felt relief. Peace is priceless – you cannot put a value on peace.’
Tom Otieno – Cordaid’s country director & MAF passenger
Despite the awful conditions, people have found peace (credit: Jenny Davies)
‘It’s been an honour flying with MAF’
An effective emergency response means filling in the gaps of service provision says Andrew:
‘Cordaid has identified a lack in treating refugees with long-term health conditions such as TB and HIV who are at risk of relapsing without ongoing treatment.
‘People with TB need medication for six months while the treatment for HIV is almost lifelong. We’ve already sent the medication for TB to the main hospital in Renk. The challenge is getting the message out there so patients can get the treatment they need.’
Cordaid’s Tom Otieno (2nd right) is grateful for MAF’s support (credit: Tobias Meyer)
MAF is privileged to help partners like Cordaid fill in the gaps. Tom is so grateful for MAF’s support:
‘We’ve seen your mission ‘Flying for Life’ first-hand. We really appreciate it. It’s been an honour flying with MAF to Renk. Your contribution to this response cannot be underestimated. You are doing so much. We are proud to be associated with MAF.’