Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
As schools in South Sudan prepare to reopen this week, Medair has been providing emergency shelter to hundreds of displaced people using the buildings for refuge.
According to the South Sudan Education Cluster, a forum of NGOs and UN agencies that coordinate education in an emergency, 60 schools have been occupied as shelters for people displaced in Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Lakes, Jonglei and Western Bahr el Ghazal.
But with evictions of occupied schools taking place this week to ensure the buildings are accessible for students and teachers, displaced people are being forced to find sanctuary elsewhere.
Medair, the Swiss-based humanitarian agency, coordinated an emergency shelter intervention at a secondary school in Gumbo, Juba. The building had been providing refuge to more than 400 people, mostly women and children who have fled the fighting in their home towns. The school has just six classrooms, eight toilets, and one water pump.
A team from Medair, together with World Vision, Confident Children out of Conflict, and the local community, built shelters to rehouse 103 families. In just two days, 45 emergency shelters were set up with bamboo poles, plastic sheets, and rope made from old car tyres.
“People were sleeping in the school in classrooms and corridors,” said the school’s principal, who had provided the families with food, second-hand clothing, water, and health care. “When they came, they came with nothing‒not even their clothes or shoes. If Medair had not started building the shelters, there would have been no place for them to go‒they would have had to sleep out in the open fields with nothing.”
The UN estimates that the violence in South Sudan, which erupted in mid-December in Juba and quickly spread across the central and east areas of the country, has left some 740,000 people displaced.
Viola, an 18-year-old displaced mother, fled the fighting in Bor to find safety at the school. “We ran and walked for three days,” she said. “We drank water from the rivers and puddles along the way. People told us we would find help here and we did.”
South Sudan became an independent nation on 9 July 2011. Medair has been present in the region since 1992 responding to emergencies and providing health care, nutrition, safe water, sanitation, hygiene, non-food items, and shelter to those most in need.
For media: For enquiries and interviews on the ground, please contact Wendy Van Amerongen, Field Communications Officer (Dutch, English) firstname.lastname@example.org, +211 (0)927 475 150
Photos of Medair’s emergency shelter intervention are available for use. Please credit the images as cited here: medair.org/emergencyshelterintervention
For more information on Medair’s South Sudan programme, visit medair.org/south-sudan
Medair’s South Sudan programme is supported by the E.C Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, the United States Agency for International Development, United National Development Programme, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and private donors.
Figures are taken from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affair’s most recent situation report, dated 30 January 2014.
Medair helps people who are suffering in remote and devastated communities around the world survive crises, recover with dignity, and develop skills to build a better future.