Responding to the needs of refugees in one of the most remote camps in the world—Yida, South Sudan

from Australian Agency for International Development
Published on 04 Feb 2013 View Original

During a recent visit to Yida refugee camp in South Sudan, Parliamentary Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Richard Marles, was able to see for himself the kind of impact Australia’s humanitarian funding to the country is having.

Hosting around 60,000 people and currently receiving around 300 every day, Yida is the largest of seven camps established to cope with the steady stream of refugees fleeing ongoing violence in Sudan. Just 15 kilometres from the north-south border, the place is truly remote.

More than 175,000 people have now sought refuge in South Sudan. While this not a huge number—especially when compared to somewhere like Kenya, which hosts 450,000 refugees in just one camp—the remoteness of the camps makes it a very complex operation.

In particular, the rudimentary road network and the long rainy season that only subsided in November has made these areas particularly difficult to reach. There are also very real security concerns because some camps are so close to the border with Sudan.

Sustenance for refugees

The United Nations World Food Programme, one of Australia’s main partners in South Sudan, provides a food ration to everyone in Yida as well as curative nutrition services. This is helping, but while high malnutrition rates have dropped, new arrivals still tend to be dehydrated due to the long journeys they have made to cross the border, often on foot.

At the camp, Mr. Marles announced Australia’s $5 million contribution to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which is coordinating the operation. South Sudan remains a focus of Australia’s aid program in Africa and - given high levels of need across the country—maintaining humanitarian funding will continue to be important.

Responding to the refugee crisis in South Sudan is adding to an already stretched humanitarian operation. Last year, food insecurity affected a staggering 4.7 million people—over half the country’s population. Widespread flash floods and insecurity due to inter-communal and border-area violence caused substantial internal displacement.

South Sudan has some of the worst development indicators in the world and access to services is extremely limited. Over half of the country’s 8.26 million population lives on less than a dollar a day—unable to obtain a minimum level of basic needs—and life expectancy is estimated to be around 42 years of age. Only a quarter of people can read and the maternal mortality rate is the highest in the world.

In 2012, Australia provided over $40 million in assistance to South Sudan.