Thursday, 1 March 2012

Yida refugee camp - the grim facts

Yida refugee camp was established in July 2011, with the arrival of over 700 refugees fleeing violence in the Sudanese border state of South Kordofan. The refugees had walked for eleven days from Kululu village, south of the state capital Kadugli, to escape widespread aerial bombing, ground attacks, indiscriminate violence and systematic rape. 

The number of refugees arriving to Yida began to increase rapidly as violence intensified and in August CARE, WFP, UNICEF and UNHCR entered the camp to assess the needs of the refugees and try to provide assistance. The local community and administration in Yida has also tried to provide assitance, proving land for the refugee camp and allowing refugees to cut down trees to use as building supplies.

The most recent population estimate of the camp was in early January 2012, when the camp co-ordinator reported a figure of approx. 28,500. Camp officials believe about 3-400 new refugees arrive daily. Humanitarian workers estimate the amount of displaced people within South Kordofan, who are unable to leave the war torn state, to be around 360,000.


 Those providing assitance to refugees in Yida should be commended for their efforts to provide security within the camp but there are worrying trends. Although levels of violence are generally low, incidences of domestic violence and sexual exploitation of girls and women are reportedly high.There is no formal schooling available to the estimated 7,000 primary school children in the camp; ad-hoc volunteer run schools are organised but they lack basis supplies as well as any sort of coherent cirruculum. Generally, the teachers are not qualified. Many children and young people arrived to the camp without immediate family members. 

There is not enough adaquete bedding for all the residents of the camp; the majority of refugees sleep on a series of branches which are criss crossed and covered with a tarpulin or they simply lie on the ground. Food supplies are sufficent for survival but provide little nutritional benefits; adults receive one daily ration of sorghum. Humanitarian organisations working within the camp are doing their best to treat malnourished children but the infant mortality rate remains high.


The situation within the camp is currently tense; South Sudanese authorities, international non-governmental organisations and the UN want the camp relocated from Unity State, believing its proximity to the border with Sudan to be a huge security rish (indeed, the camp was bombed by the Sudan Armed Forces in November of last year). The majority of refugees are opposed to this however as they fear moving from the border will end any hope of returning to their homes in South Kordofan and also, they fear refugees fleeing violence in the future will not make it to safety if the camp is moved further from the border. The camp also has no road access due to the rainy season and airlifting adaquete supplies has proved difficult. 

Yida refugee camp 

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