People in Bentiu, the northern part of South Sudan and capital of Unity State, are experiencing outbreaks of infectious and waterborne diseases, and rising malnutrition and food insecurity as a result of some of the most severe floods there have been in decades. A failure of humanitarian authorities and organizations to ramp up the response fast enough has left at least 152,000 displaced people living in horrific conditions. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) urges other humanitarian organizations in Bentiu, the government and Ministry of Health of South Sudan, and the United Nations, to immediately increase food and nutrition aid, shelter and healthcare, and water and sanitation services.
Will Turner, MSF emergency operations manager says that the dangerously slow and insufficient humanitarian response is threatening the lives of people since the grave situation inside Bentiu displacement camp is not new. Turner further mentioned that MSF has for years repeatedly warned about the deplorable conditions, yet other agencies and organizations accountable for the camp’s water and sanitation services have not adequately increased or adjusted their activities. This has caused paralysis in action even in this current crisis, resulting in awful living conditions and huge risks to the health of the people in Bentiu camp and also across temporary camps in Bentiu town.
This year’s floods have adversely affected people in Bentiu and more than 800,000 people across the country. The number of people in the former Protection of Civilians site; now Bentiu internally displaced persons camp has risen by 12,000 in just a couple of months, and the camp now holds at least 120,000 people. With the stream of people in the camp, the MSF hospital is now totally beyond capacity. The majority of patients in the hospital comprise children under five years suffering from malnutrition, malaria, and respiratory tract infections. Jacob Goldberg, MSF emergency medical manager reports that they are extremely concerned about malnutrition. This is because the severe acute malnutrition levels recorded are double the WHO threshold, and the number of children who have been admitted to the hospital with severe malnutrition has also doubled since the start of the floods.
In Bentiu camp, the living conditions are dreadful since the sewage treatment site has been for weeks now cut off by floodwater, leaving the camp with almost no usable latrines. With the already abhorrent conditions even further exacerbated by the influx of new arrivals, people are at an even higher risk of outbreaks and waterborne diseases like cholera, acute watery diarrhea, and malaria. MSF teams have quickly ramped up activities and brought in an extra emergency team. According to Turner, the humanitarian response in Bentiu should urgently shift gears. He further states that there is still not adequate food assistance in or outside Bentiu camp despite the stream of displaced people, with food rations cut by half earlier this year.
MSF first began working in Bentiu in 2000, providing medical care to displaced people who had fled violence and fighting. In Bentiu town, the MSF clinic deals with sexual and reproductive health, and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) services with outreach activities such as community engagement and health promotion. In Bentiu camp which is South Sudan’s largest camp for displaced people, MSF has offered healthcare services since 2014 when the camp was formed. The MSF hospital provides surgery, emergency children and adult services, specialist healthcare, as well as an outreach team in the camp, and emergency response to disease outbreaks. To follow up on the situation in South Sudan and other humanitarian countries, subscribe to our newsletter for daily updates.