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South Sudan: Grandma Nantiek in Bentiu Protection of Civilians camp

15 Sep 2016

In Bentiu Protection of Civilians camp (PoC), in the north of South Sudan, Nantiek is the leader of a family of 12. She faces the second eviction order within the camp premises, from the UN administration, since she and her family arrived from Leer city several months ago fearing for their lives and leaving everything behind them.

She’s standing there with her bare feet in the mud. She’s gently carrying her youngest granddaughter in her arms. The little one suffers from a severe disability. Nantiek is tired but she speaks with confidence and strong words. She’s been through so much difficulty since her and her family fled from their village next to Leer, around 120 km away. They fled to escape the war, the violence, and the hunger. Along with nearly 125,000 others, Nantiek and her family have found refuge in the UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) PoC camp of Bentiu, in South Sudan’s north. They have lived in very precarious conditions since June 2015 – for many others it has been even longer. 

“Our house was looted, our cattle were looted, we had to flee, and we couldn’t stay. We left everything behind us,”

Every month around 1,000 new people arrive, and around 1,000 leave (8,000 more arrived in July to latest flare of conflict around the country). The camp is full of kids wandering around, playing in the mud, under a terrible heat that can reach 48 degrees under cover. But as the rainy season comes and with it the grey muds of the black cotton that sticks to your feet adding at least one more kilogram each. With the rain, mosquitoes that transmit malaria also come back, putting the life of numerous kids at risk. “Our house was looted, our cattle were looted, we had to flee, and we couldn’t stay. We left everything behind us,” says Nantiek, repeating the story of hundreds of families. “We were hungry also,” she adds. “Here, at least they won’t kill us, they give us some food and some water, a shelter and we can go to the health centre or to the MSF hospital when we are sick. But now they want us to move again inside the camp. We moved already. We were in PoC 3, they told us to move to PoC 2 and now they want us to move again but they don’t give us a place, a shelter. I’m tired to move.”

The camp is divided into squared and level blocks (the PoCs), that are equipped with latrines and water points, but only nine litres of water are allocated per person per day and the World Food Program organises the food distribution. A family of five will receive one 50kg bag of sorghum, oil and some cups of lentils every month – hardly enough to survive. The Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in the camp treats a steady stream of severely acute malnourished kids. Nantiek is willing to go back. “I want to return to my village, my cows, my crops but we lost everything. We are not well here. But we need security.” In the meantime, Nantiek will remain here, between the fences and the moats of the Bentiu PoC, under UNMISS protection and the pressure to resettle somewhere else in the camp.


In the UN Protection of Civilian camp, Médecins Sans Frontières runs a community health program, Nantiek is one of the cases they follow. The organisation also runs a 160 bed hospital providing secondary healthcare, surgery and emergency services to the population of the camp. The medical team also provides maternal care for complicated cases, obstetrics, and a sexual violence program. Malnourished children are taken to an inpatients therapeutic feeding centre. A clinic takes care of children under five. In Bentiu town area, Médecins Sans Frontières supports health access for the community and displaced population. In the town of Bentiu the medical team operates a primary health centre which can refer patients to the town’s hospital or to the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in the PoC. Women also have access to ante-natal care consultations and health and psycho-social services in case of sexual violence.