7 May 2014 - When Chol Riek’s 74-year old mother died of natural causes in the UNMISS base in the Upper Nile State capital Malakal, where the family is seeking refuge, he was worried about her send-off.
“Day-to-day life is difficult enough in these circumstances,” said Mr. Riek, one of over 18,000 displaced people at the base. “Burying a loved one with cultural respect would be even harder.”
UNMISS, working with the South Sudan Red Cross (SSRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross, established a graveyard where displaced people who die of natural causes are buried.
“It was a principal concern that those that had passed away would be buried with dignity and respect,” said UNMISS State Coordinator Deborah Schein. “Therefore we have organized regular burials of the dead.”
Supervised by the mission’s Protection of Civilians (PoC) office in partnership with the SSRC, displaced civilians have been able to bury over 100 people in their community.
“We took this initiative as part of our duty to stand by the vulnerable civilians during their trying moments,” said UNMISS PoC Officer Welmoet Wels. “Honouring the dead is part of human dignity.”
Like Mr. Riek, another displaced person who lost a family member is Naybaj Akwac. She said when her nine-month-old baby died, she had no idea how she could have buried her without assistance from the partners.
“We hope we can now help to provide them with death certificates and work with the administrative structures of the government to have everything done in a more regularized manner,” said Ms. Schein.