I hear from a community leader in Nyin Deng Ayuel camp that two children and an adult have died in just the last two days. I find the mother of one of the children sitting by her five-year-old son’s small, freshly dug grave. Her three other children, all very thin and weak, sit at the entrance of the family’s improvised shelter. Speaking with their mum, I can’t get an exact picture of what caused her son’s death, but looking over at his siblings, I’ve no doubt the lack of food contributed.
Walking around the makeshift camps in Twic County, more than anything, this is what the community tells me they’re worried about: the lack of food. In one camp I see people collapsing, physically exhausted. They clearly haven’t had enough food for a while. I don’t see anyone cooking or any food stored in any of the shelters. People tell me that there are almost no fish left in the drying river, forcing many to go collect leaves to eat.
The food shortages in the camps have been getting worse since February, when thousands of people first arrived here after deadly clashes forced them to leave their homes in Agok, 20 kilometres from here.
The dire situation forced us to do something unusual and outside our regular medical activities. We’ve provided food – almost 500 metric tonnes of it in the last few months – to communities here to try to avert disaster. And we’re looking at organising more food drops in the coming weeks and months.
This, in addition to running mobile clinics in six locations, where our medics regularly see very unwell kids with malaria and diarrhoeal diseases, and more recently, increasingly with malnutrition. The health issues we’re seeing reflect the dismal living conditions in the camps. For months, people have been surviving mostly out in the open, making do with bits of cloth and some plastic sheeting to shield them from the scorching sun and the constant threat of snakes and scorpions. I can’t see how these flimsy shelters will protect them from much if the seasonal rains are heavy this year.