Refugee agency warns of looming health crisis in Yida

Bentiu, June 27, 2012 (SSNA) — Sanitary and hygiene conditions in Yida have taken a radical turn for the worse, owing to the rapid growth of the population in the refugee settlement.

UNHCR’s head of office in Bentiu, Marie-Helene Verney said the surge was putting huge pressure on limited resources in water and sanitation.

“The refugee population in Yida has more than doubled since the end of April this year, when there were 27,500. Currently we have 58,375 refugees in the settlement.”

Verney pointed out that the main challenge being faced is to scale up the numbers of latrines and boreholes to match the pace of arrival of refugees. Stating that diarrhea has become the main cause of morbidity among refugees, Verney affirmed that there is adequate groundwater in Yida.

“Agencies are working hard to increase facilities and services in order to keep up with demand. At the same time, health partners are reporting increasing cases of diarrhea among refugees, raising grave concerns about the risk of disease outbreak.”

Verney attributed problems in addressing the situation to the lack of basic infrastructure and local technical capacity in the region. She cited difficulties in transporting drilling equipment to Yida in rainy season conditions. The Pariang-Yida road is closed for all traffic and only passable after three dry days. The Bentiu-Yida road is passable only for light vehicles. As a result, delivery of humanitarian aid by road has been rendered virtually impossible.

New partners with expertise in water, sanitation and hygiene are boosting the efforts of present actors. Operational responses include the drilling of six new boreholes to complement the existing six as well as construction of an additional 900 community latrines. Large scale health and hygiene promotion campaigns and education on vector control and transmission will be conducted to promote behavioral change.

Despite enduring concerns about refugee security due to Yida’s proximity to a disputed border zone, UNHCR and partners continue to provide life-saving assistance and basic services in order to maintain conditions of dignity in the settlement.

South Sudan is currently hosting close to 170,000 Sudanese refugees in Upper Nile and Unity states. UNHCR is appealing for $186 million for the associated emergency response operations.

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For further information, please contact:
Teresa Ongaro, mobile: +211 927 770 040; email: [email protected]
Mark Kirya, mobile: +211 977 493 000; email: [email protected]
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