|A class in session at a school in Batil Refugee Camp, Maban County of South Sudan. Many schools in the area do have have basic facilities. (Rebeca Acedo/JRS)|
|According to a United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) humanitarian snapshot dated 31st January 2014, an estimated 863,000 people have been displaced by the conflict, the majority are displaced inside South Sudan while 123,000 have fled to nearby countries.|
Maban, 07 February 2014 – As schools re-opened on Monday 3rd February 2014, an uneasy calm prevails in Maban, Upper Nile State of South Sudan. Staff from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), both local and international have started trickling back to Maban County which is located in the North-Eastern part of Upper Nile State in South Sudan.
The area is generally calm although there is still a curfew in place but it has now been reduced to 10 hours (8.00pm from 6.00am). Many NGO staff, including those of UNHCR, were expected back to the area from Monday 3rd February 2014. According to a United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) humanitarian snapshot dated 31st January 2014, an estimated 863,000 people have been displaced by the conflict, the majority are displaced inside South Sudan while 123,000 have fled to nearby countries.
UNHCR has to date registered between 3,000 and 3,500 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Maban as a result of the conflict. Before the conflict erupted in South Sudan, 120,092 individual refugees were currently settled in four camps in Doro, Batil, Gendrassa and Jamam in Maban County.
Millions affected by conflict. According to BBC, the United Nations has said it estimates 3.7 million people are in acute need of food in South Sudan as a result of the civil conflict there.
UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos wrapped up her three-day mission to South Sudan on 29th January highlighting the dire humanitarian situation affecting hundreds of thousands of people in the world’s youngest country. “People are short of food, living in conditions with poor sanitation and very little water,” said the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs who visited displaced families in the capital, Juba, and in the town of Malakal in Upper Nile State.
In 2014, JRS plans to work in all 4 camps of Maban County (Doro, Batil, Gendrassa and Kaya) providing education and psychosocial services. The psychosocial activities will be be carried out in Doro camp while the education activities will be implemented in Kaya, Yusuf-Batil, Gendrassa and Doro camps. Maban counts as the third JRS operational area after Yambio and Zara Counties of Western Equatoria State of South Sudan.
Teacher training is planned as one of the major activities of JRS in Maban. However this activity that was to start in January 2014 has been put on hold due to insecurity. A JRS fact finding mission to Maban at end of January 2014 shows that UNHCR along with many NGOs such as the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and Save the Children are optimistic that activities will be soon back to normal in Maban. JRS plans to resume its activities next month.
Challenges Encountered. There are also serious doubts about the proposed teacher training activities. Many NGOs offering education support are expected to move in with full support once the schools re-open.
As NGOs trickle back to Maban, an acute fuel shortage may hamper their operations. Fuel used to be brought from Juba using the water way, but now due to the war situation it is not possible to bring fuel to Maban. Fuel is thus being rationed and is limited to only essential services such as pumping drinking water. The UN has resorted to bringing in fuel by air but this is proving to be very costly and unsustainable.
Violence broke out in South Sudan on 15 December, starting as violence between rival army factions. A ceasefire agreement between the rival factions was signed on 23rd January 2014 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia bringing hope that peace would be restored.
According to a 5th February 2014 report by the World Food Programme (WFP) South Sudanese continue to cross the border into Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan. The situation remains unpredictable, even though the number of new arrivals has stabilised since the signing of the ceasefire agreement.
As many NGOs prepare to resume full operations in Maban, it is hoped that the fragile ceasefire will hold and relative peace will be restored to South Sudan. We continue to pray that peace will prevail in Africa’s newest state.
In 2012, JRS-EA closed 4 projects in South Sudan; namely, Nimule, Lobone, Kajo Keji and Yei after more than 15 years in the area. The closure of these projects was after the realization that a good foundation had been laid and returnees could build upon it and stand on their own. In late 2012 JRS set up a project in Yambio County of Western Equatoria State in South Sudan and in 2013 expansion into Upper Nile State was initiated.