After 18 months, we devolved the management of South Sudanese camps for internal refugees on the government

After 18 months, we devolved the management of South Sudanese camps for internal refugees on the government

7. 7. 2015

Juba (3 July 2015) When, in January 2014, we started providing assistance at three locations in South Sudan’s Juba to 5000 internal refugees, who had escaped the recent fighting and ethnic violence only with a few personal belongings, we could not have imagined that we would manage the camps for a whole eighteen months. Now the time has come for us to leave the camps Mahad and Lologo, both holding 3500 refugees, and to devolve their management on the local government.

With the help of partners and resources from the People in Need Club of Friends Relief Fund, the South Sudan team not only ensured the camps’ operation, but also initially supplied food, blankets, dishes, and rain-safe tarpaulins. The team focused especially on supplying drinking water, building camp latrines, and collecting waste. "The number of people in the camps varied according to the security situation. In March, people started returning back home, as the situation in certain regions has stabilized," says Martina Voháňková, the head of People in Need’s mission in South Sudan.

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Help for the Mahad camp has been deliberately decreasing since the beginning of the year to avoid people’s dependence on humanitarian aid. "People have gradually found ways to cope with difficult situations. In the last few months, help was provided only to the most vulnerable," says Martina Voháňková, adding that People in Need ceased supplying drinking water, cleaning latrines and collecting waste from the camp.

The community is able to manage the camps itself

"After three months, two out of three water tanks are still full, as the community contributes towards the water. Latrines are also kept clean. Traditional leaders have divided responsibilities among their communities. People also collect waste and deliver it to the street, where public waste collection is ensured," Martina Voháňková describes the current situation, adding that in the past six months, People in Need has held a number of discussions about the camp’s management with internal refugees, most of whom are women and children. This resulted in a strong engagement of all communities, who have created their own committees and are able to solve a number of issues independently. "Our colleagues from Internews have distributed three radios to the communities and created a radio broadcasting series about life in Mahad, the People in Need organization, and camp management. The broadcasts are in traditional languages and are recorded directly by people from the community. They also added traditional tribal songs and the shows were aired regularly," says Martina Voháňková, adding that the shows were aired even by Mingkaman FM station in the city of Bor, from where the internal refugees had arrived. People then called the radio station, saying that they recognized relatives in the camp about whom they did not have any news since the beginning of the conflict.

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On the last day of June, People in Need was able to devolve the camp to the government at a special ceremony. "The government is now responsible for finding solutions for internal refugees. It was clearly stated that it will support those who wish to return home, but also those who cannot yet return there because of the fighting," explains Martina Voháňková, adding that people have started returning especially to the relatively stable Pibor area and to the surroundings of Bor in the Jonglei state. Some people hope to integrate themselves in the life in Juba, such as the internal refugees from Lologo, where only a few dozen remain.

Managing the camp would not be possible without the support of our partners IRC, UNHCR, WFP, IBIS, UNICEF, Terres des Hommes, USRATUNA and the resources from the People in Need Club of Friends Relief Fund, the Rapid Response Fund, the Common Humanitarian Fund or the Central Emergency Response Fund.

Author: Martina Voháňková, Petr Štefan