South Sudan

S. Sudan: MSF resumes operations in Pibor County amid uncertainty

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By Julius N. Uma

January 11, 2012 (JUBA) - As Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) officially resumes its operations in Pibor County of South Sudan’s Jonglei state, the organisation warns that a climate of uncertainty makes it practically difficult for them to scale up their activities to deal with the humanitarian emergency.

The organisation, in a statement sent to Sudan Tribune, said a team of 12 medical and logistics staff on January 7 began providing the much-needed emergency response in the aftermath of last week’s inter-communal violence in Pibor.

“There is a strong sense of uncertainty in the area around Pibor,” said Colette Gadenne, MSF’s South Sudan programme manager, adding that “lots of people, including many of our local staff, are looking for lost family members in the bush, fearing the worst.”

According to Gadenne, the irreparable damage to most of the organisation’s drugs and medical materials makes it extremely challenging for MSF to mount an effective emergency response for those in urgent need of medical care.

MSF on January 2 temporarily suspended normal operations in Pibor after two of its medical facilities were reportedly a target for looting. The health organisation said at the time that they had lost contact with over 100 local staff who had fled to the bush to escape an attack by the Luo Nuer ethnic group against the Murle residents of Pibor.

The Pibor commissioner says that over 3,000 people were killed in the raid. Women and children have been abducted and almost 90,000 according to the commissioner.

Around 60,000 have been displaced by the conflict according to the UN, with 1,000 dying in raids and counter raids since between June 2011 and December when the current fighting started.

Jean-Marc Jacobs, MSF’s deputy head of mission for South Sudan told Sudan Tribune by phone on Wednesday that they were in direct contact with at least half of their local staff. The organisation reportedly employs about 150 people in the area.

“We are in touch with about 70 of our local staff working in the conflict areas. But we are still very concerned about their welfare, including the fate of all the area population who fled into the bush to save their lives following the intense fighting,” he said.

The MSF deputy head of mission also confirmed that the organisation had airlifted more than one ton of supplies, including drugs and medical logistics to Pibor, with plans for scaling up their operations in the coming weeks.

Since a peace deal in 2005, an estimated that 160,000 people in Pibor have benefited from MSF healthcare services, the organisation pledging further commitment towards providing more high quality services.