For several weeks, thousands of Jie – mostly women and children – have been surviving in Kassengor, Kapoeta, on little but wild fruits for food, and tree leaves to treat medical issues.
“We are suffering now. We are facing a lot of challenges including water, diseases, and hunger,” lamented Regai Locipran, a community leader of the Jie.
He was relaying the dire needs of his community to a team of officials from the UN Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Kapoeta area government, which had reached Kassengor on Tuesday afternoon on an integrated mission to assess the humanitarian situation.
Community members had congregated by the hundreds to greet the visiting team.
“We are calling on the international community for support,” said Regai Locipran, making the most of the opportunity presented by the visit.
The Jie fled some 70km South to Kassengor following clashes between them and the Murle tribe, uprooting them from their homes in Loyapuru, Boma.
The fighting, which broke out on 6 July, is reported to have claimed the lives of an unconfirmed number of civilians. Jie further allege that Murle raided tens of thousands of their cattle, leaving them with little option but to flee.
The visiting team presented Jie community leaders with relief items such as bars of soap and jerry cans and buckets to fetch water. The team then proceeded down a small path to the centre of the village, droves of women and children in tow, to meet with the community and hear their needs.
A humanitarian assessment conducted last week by the Kapoeta State Governor Louis Lobong Lojore indicated that an estimated three thousand people are now internally displaced and lack access to basic needs including food, water, medicine, and education. Amidst these challenges the Jie community is in fear of a recurrent conflict with the Murle that would further exacerbate their already dire circumstances.
“We stand in solidarity with you to build your confidence so that you don’t feel alone. The international community is supporting you. UNMISS will work with humanitarian partners to communicate your needs,” UNMISS Head of Field Office, Caroline Waudo, addressed the community to assuage their apprehension and encourage dialogue.
UNMISS intends to facilitate a peace a dialogue between the Murle and Jie in Boma State in the near future to foster the peace and reconciliation process. While further action will be determined following the integrated patrol’s complete assessment, one thing is clear: the community cannot survive on fruits and leaves forever.