On 15 and 16 February 2022, 10 villages in the southern part of Unity state, South Sudan, were attacked by armed youth.
The result: Thousands of people had to leave their homes and properties, fleeing to nearby Leer town seeking refuge.
“The situation we have in our hands right now is almost beyond words,” says Hellen Midenlo, a first responder from the nongovernmental organization, Universal Intervention and Development Organization (UNIDOR).
“Properties have been looted and destroyed; people have nothing but the clothes on their backs. You can see the elderly, children and women sitting around by the sides of the streets, still in shock,” she continues.
Hellen was speaking to an assessment team from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), visiting Leer in the wake of the devastation.
The UN Peacekeeping mission, upon receiving initial reports of the conflict, has been working non-stop to reduce tensions and bolster the fragile security situation.
“When the fighting broke out, UNMISS peacekeepers from Ghana accompanied me as I reached out to all humanitarian partners and helped us put together our first coordinated response to the crisis,” reveals Stephen Taker Riak, County Commissioner for Leer.
Peacekeepers have ramped up patrols in the area and are engaging with communities to build confidence and maintain calm.
“The influx of displaced civilians into Leer town is massive and creates a challenging security environment,” states Major Frederick Gaffa, who is currently leading all efforts by Ghanaian peacekeepers on the ground.
“We are, therefore, intensifying our patrols to keep people safe, reassure the newly displaced and prevent any further escalations.”
Unity state is already beleaguered by the worst flooding in 60 years and this latest upsurge in conflict has exacerbated an already large humanitarian need.
“Food and clean drinking water are in short supply for the newly displaced, so we are, temporarily, also providing them with water,” adds Major Gaffa.
This initiative by peacekeepers has been much appreciated.
“We are surrounded by flood waters here in Leer and when women and children began arriving, it was a difficult situation,” explains Paulino Kuch, Coordinator, Relief and Rehabilitation Commission. “There were four days when the newly displaced faced shortages of food and drinking water. However, thanks to UNMISS peacekeepers they now have clean water.”
It is estimated that some 3,000 households are currently sheltering in Leer town, and more are flocking in every day. Ghanaian peacekeepers stationed here are offering to transport those needing urgent medical attention with their sole ambulance.
However, the situation remains dire and urgent humanitarian relief is needed for the suffering.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
© Press Release 2021
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