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By Wouter Schaap
As violence continues in South Sudan, CARE is working to help families who have fled their homes. On February 18, opposition forces launched an attack on Upper Nile State’s capital, Malakal. The town had already been devastated by more than six weeks of fighting in December 2013 and January 2014. Most of its inhabitants had fled to the next state or beyond, braving a treacherous crossing of the White Nile River. Some 20,000 people still are in a “Protection of Civilians” (POC) area established on the grounds of the United Nations compound in Malakal, and several thousand more sought shelter on the grounds of churches and schools in the town itself. Assistant Country Director Wouter Schaap was in town to support the local CARE team’s response when the fighting broke out, and shares what he saw:
“We came to Upper Nile to set up more relief programs for displaced people sheltering in and around the town Malakal. For the past five days we have been stuck in the UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) compound in Malakal due to heavy fighting in the town and at times had to seek shelter in the UN bunker from the heavy artillery used by both sides in the battle.
“There are also some 20,000 internally displaced people (IDP) sheltering within the UNMISS base. They are very afraid, and for the first four days the water system was broken, so they were getting desperate for water to drink.
“The work we had come to do was not possible, so the entire CARE team here set about helping the International Organization for Migration restore the water supply for the IDPs sheltering here at the base, and distribute water.
“We replaced water bladders that had been damaged and installed some new tap stands. We also directly distributed water to probably more than 4000 people from the back of a tanker truck. It was crazy out there as people were quite desperate. Some of them were clambering with outstretched cups to collect the few drops that leak off the back of the trucks. Some were even scooping up muddy water off the ground.
“Together with other humanitarian organizations we are trying to see how we can extend more permanent water points to the parts of the POC (Protection of Civilians) area we had to serve with delivery off the back of the trucks. We hope there will not be any further clashes, so that we also will get more access to other displaced people in and around Malakal.”
Read more about CARE's response to the South Sudan crisis here.