MSF warns of dire medical needs in overcrowded and under-prepared refugee camps
In Unity State, the refugee camp at Yida expanded dramatically over the past two months to around 50,000, with up to a thousand new refugees arriving daily. “At this point what concerns us most in Yida is that half of our consultations are water born illness that are easily preventable with proper hygiene, sanitation and availability of potable water,” says André Heller Perrache, MSF head of mission in South Sudan. “We see many patients, mainly children for whom diarrhoea can be life-threatening, continue to come back to the hospital to be treated several times. We are also seeing increasing malnutrition.”
Many of the new arrivals from Sudan have walked for many days or even weeks and are in a worse health condition than refugees that crossed in the past few months. Despite efforts of the few organisations present the conditions and facilities facing them on arrival are completely insufficient to cope with the recent influx, nor with the needs of the existing population of the camps. The start of the rainy season adds to the urgency. ‘As the rainy season intensifies, the situation for the refugees becomes increasingly precarious,” says Heller Perrache. “Some crucial access roads are already becoming unusable and MSF urgently calls upon aid organisations involved in providing the basic minimum services to catch up with the ever increasing camp populations.”
MSF has a massive response in the refugee camps, with more than 50 international staff and just over 300 local staff present. In total MSF is providing more than 6,500 consultations per week, including urgent medical care for the most critically ill of the new arrivals. MSF has also engaged in prevention of disease outbreaks by conducting measles vaccination campaigns for children under 15. At various temporary points in Upper Nile State MSF is treating and distributing water but the available water will run out soon. ‘That’s why it is so important more organisations get involved in trying to move the refugees to more suitable locations and provide appropriate conditions in the existing camps without delay’, adds Rijnierse.