As It Happens

Living conditions at South Sudan camp put country's displaced at risk

The deteriorating conditions in a UN camp in South Sudan are making the displaced people living there more sick and more desperate. Doctors Without Borders is serving 48,000 people out of a 50-bed hospital.
A displaced woman inside the UN compound in Malakal, South Sudan. (Anna Surinyach/MSF)

Camps like the one in Malakal, South Sudan are supposed to be about giving shelter and safety.

But, according to Jacob Kuehn of the group Doctors Without Borders, or MSF, the conditions here are jeopardizing the health of thousands of people.

The UN's Protection of Civilians Camp in Malakal, near the troubled border with Sudan, is currently home to more than 48,000 people – that's three times the number of people that were seeking shelter there earlier this year.

Children among the rubble at the UN compound in Malakal, South Sudan (Anna Surinyach/MSF)

"Sixteen thousand of them came in August from an area where there was no humanitarian access, not enough food and no security," Kuehn tells As It Happens host Carol Off. "So, for them, the conditions in the camp are not the beginning of their suffering. It's just where they've ended up."

You can't have 48,000 people living in a half-square-kilometre, almost on top of each other, and expect that their not going to get sick.- Jacob Kuehn , MSF

According to Kuehn, the deteriorating living conditions in Malakal are actually jeopardizing the health of its growing number of inhabitants. MSF's 50-bed hospital, which serves the entire camp, has been overflowing in recent weeks. The largest number of patients are children suffering from malaria, pneumonia and malnutrition.

"You can't have 48,000 people living in a half-square-kilometre, almost on top of each other, and expect that their not going to get sick," says Kuehn.

At Malakal, on average, 70 people share one latrine. Children have been regularly seen defecating in the drainage canal. Some people are even defecating in the showers.

Jacob Kuehn, MSF's communications manager for South Sudan. (Twitter)

Kuehn adds, "There are sort of basic, minimum humanitarian standards that have been set for the minimum sustenance of human life . . . and the conditions in this camp fall woefully below most of them."


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