Photo: Sudanese refugees wait in line in the outpatient department at the MSF field hospital in Jamam refugee camp. South Sudan 2012 © Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
Fear and Hope in South Sudan as Refugees Start to Cross Border Again
More than 170,000 people who fled violence in Sudan are living in refugee camps in South Sudan. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been assisting the refugees since November 2011, running field hospitals and providing supplies of clean drinking water and oral rehydration fluids. Now that the floods caused by the rainy season are subsiding refugees are starting to cross the border again. In December 2012, around 370 refugees arrived at the border village of El Fuj, traveling in two groups and arriving a few days apart. This is a small number compared to last year, when 35,000 people crossed the border in the space of just three weeks. Time will tell if the numbers will increase. While the camps in South Sudan provide relative safety, refugees living there face dire conditions. There are still shortages of clean water—at times, 40 percent of medical consultations carried out by MSF were related to diarrhea—and there are ongoing occurrences of Hepatitis E. In Batil Camp (which hosts around 35,000 refugees), mortality rates were more than double emergency thresholds in summer 2012, and more than a quarter of the children under the age of five were malnourished. Since September 2012, conditions have improved in many areas and mortality rates have dropped, but nutrition and food security are still serious concerns.