April 6, 2014 (YAMBIO) – The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has completed distributing non-food items to wildfire victims in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria state.
Those affected were refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and host communities. The 15 February fire gutted areas in Naandi, Mangbangauo, Degere and Diabio payams (districts), destroying homes, personal items and gardens.
The four-day distribution targeted 661 families, including 10 from Naandi payam who lost their homes in the fire. It is hoped the items, which included plastic sheets, tents, jerry cans, mats, soap and sanitary kits will help victims start new lives.
According to UNHCR, though this help was outside its core mandate of ensuring protection for asylum seekers, refugees, stateless and internally displaced persons, its intervention can be seen as a goodwill gesture to host communities who welcomed and continue to host refugees who fled DRC for South Sudan.
“UNHCR’s response to wildfire victims also includes a fire prevention awareness campaign on the causes of wildfire outbreaks and how to prevent them, including the setting up of fire breaks in gardens and residential areas,” the agency said in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune.
“Western Equatoria’s Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC), local authorities, UNHCR and partners started the campaign through word of mouth and local radio broadcasts,” it added.
The agency also thanked state and local authorities, as well as the RRC, for their support.
“UNHCR considers it highly significant that the impetus for this initiative came directly from the host provincial government in response to an assessment conducted by UNHCR and partners in Ezo [county],” the statement said.
While the provincial government has been helping with immediate needs such as seeds for the fire victims, local authorities in Ezo county are reportedly eager to put in place a long-term recovery strategy for those who have lost their homes.
“The next step for us is helping in the recovery and rebuilding of these homes and communities,” said Ezo county commissioner Albert Moudie.
“We are in the process of rolling out fire prevention awareness campaigns specifically designed for the individuals who were impacted by the fire,” he added.
The campaign will reportedly also target hunters, fishers, mothers and gardeners.
In South Sudan, UNHCR statistics show, there are currently 259,232 refugees. Nearly 90 per cent are from Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Niles states and live in six camps across the northern states of Unity and Upper Nile. The remaining 10 per cent are refugees from the DRC, the Central African Republic and Ethiopia, who live mostly in Central and Western Equatoria states.