Plan steps up relief in South Sudan
“The food we received today is the only thing we have. Everything was looted by the attackers. Our cows were raided and our crops was burned down by them,” said Mary Nyagolol, resident of Likuangole displaced to Pibor town in Jonglei, South Sudan.
At least 17, 000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in two payams of Gumuruk and Likuangole of Pibor County have benefited in the first two weeks of food distribution conducted by child rights organisation Plan International in collaboration with the World Food Program.
Villages burned downMary Nyagolol, who is 40 years old, had to flee Likuangole at dawn with her family. Her husband, along with his other two wives, guided them through the bushes. She said her step son was abducted during that night as they were running to save their lives. They hid in the bushes for the entire week surviving on wild fruit and meat.
“When we learnt of food distribution in Pibor town, I first came to see it and went back to inform the entire family. All of us then came down to Pibor to register ourselves for relief food,” said Mary. “Our villages have been burned down to ashes and we have no place to return to unless we are supported with shelter and food.”
Dire needInternational agencies operating in Jonglei report that the situation in Likuangole is dire and the town is in need of urgent help. The reports say that all the villages have been burned down and people are still living in the bushes. Besides cattle raids, the report also points out cases of children missing or those who are still unaccompanied.
Food and security remain the priority concerns for the Likuangole IDPs. They also need shelter. In the whole county, 76, 000 IDPs are reported to be in dire need of food, shelter and security.
Kongkong Kalayin,a 22-year-old mother of three has returned from the hiding with her large extended family. They received food aid for 26 people in one household. She said they are currently sleeping under a tree at the local government compound. “Because of the food we have received, we will return to Likuangole to start a new life there. I am happy my children have some food to eat today,” Kongkong said. She said food was their number one concern followed by security, medication and shelter.
Resettling displaced peopleThe local authority of Pibor County is calling on agencies to help resettle IDPs by providing food aid and non-food aid at their respective original areas of residence. Plan is among the first agencies that responded to the call. Before the appeal from the local authority, Plan had already deployed a emergency response team.
“This area is like a desert. We don’t have boreholes so we use the river water to drink and bathe in. Many people are afraid to come to us and we are grateful that Plan has come forward to offer help,” said Gumuruk Payam Director Joseph Bagili during a meeting between local administration and Plan South Sudan emergency response team.
Plan is currently distributing food at Gumuruk and Likuangole payams, targeting 15, 000 IDPs in each location over the next two to three months.
“We did not intend to go to our village because we saw our houses in flames. There was nothing left when our cows were taken and the huts burned down,” said Adikira Ngare, a resident of Likuangole who received food aid in Pibor. “We are now willing to return to Likuangole as long as we shall be supported and we trust that the international community will help us,” Ngare said.
Children after attackChildren are among the most vulnerable. In Likuangole, schools have been burned down and going to school could be a challenge for children as schools reopen next month after the summer break.
The situation in Pibor and Gurumuk is different. A few schools that are there are either occupied by IDPs or destroyed by the Lou-Nuer attackers.
Ngachuro Kirerwa, 35, a mother of six children whose entire family sleeps under a tree in Pibor town said: “I want my children to study; it is not possible after the attack. I would send some of them to Juba if I had the money so that they continue to learn there. I don’t know if we are returning to Likuangole. My husband says that everybody says there are just ashes everywhere in the village.”
Everywhere in Pibor town, families are sleeping under trees and their children are exposed to catching colds and diseases. If the situation continues there are fears things may worsen during the rainy season in April and May. Little children can be seen playing around the food distribution points or bathing in Pibor River. Some children now have fish as part of their diet since milk is no longer in supply with the cows having been raided by the attackers.