The ongoing political conflicts in South Sudan in 2013 and 2017 have claimed many lives, destroyed property and crops, and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Most people sought refuge in Internally Displaced People Camps (IDP), or in refugee camps in a neighboring country (Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan or DR Congo).
Most of the people fled leaving behind everything, including essential household items and unharvested crops. Some even had to leave behind children, husband or wife! One woman in Bidibidi refugee camp in Uganda told us she left three of her children, ages 11, 8 and 5. When she prepares food she finds it difficult to eat, especially when she remembers her children. She also cannot cover herself when she thinks of her children sleeping out in the cold.
The reason South Sudanese fled their homes is mainly the conflict which poses human threats and causes them not to engage in any sustainable economic activities such as farming. Currently the most pressing need among the South Sudanese living in both IDP camps or refugee camps is for psycho-social trauma healing. They have endured unbelievable emotional upheaval during their ordeal. Having to live as a refugee by itself is a serious source of trauma. One person said that being a refugee, not once but now for a second time, is the worst form of slavery.
Of course the people are also faced with food shortage as their food ration has been reduced from 12kgs per person per month to only 6kgs which is not sufficient for one month.
Education, particularly high school education, is indeed a serious problem for the youth because in Uganda, secondary education is not free! Sudanese youth who have no funds to pay for schooling have too much time on their hands and are engaging in unhealthy activities. Reports show that abuse of alcohol and drugs, rape, and other crimes are on the increase among the refugees.
The refugees are totally dependent on handouts from charity organizations and churches. Some who are settled in areas suitable for farming cultivate small plots (30mx30m) to supplement the food being distributed in the camps. The majority of the IDPs and refugee populations are women, children and elderly, plus youth.
What is puzzling is the unbelievable number of refugees in the neighboring countries. It’s like everyone has actually left South Sudan. One wonders whether these people will ever return home. In the first war in South Sudan, people who lived in the camps as children are returning again as parents, or for a third time, as grandparents. Which place do they call home?