Providing Assistance to Refugees and Host Communities in South Sudan

Date Publish: 
South Sudan / Africa and Middle East

By Konrad Bark, IOM Mission in South Sudan | Juba Office

“Refugees are the richest people in Maban” commented a trainer of home health promoters as the Toyota Land Cruiser we were in began to reach the outskirts of the largest, and continually expanding, Doro refugee camp in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State. 

Maban County, in Upper Nile State, has a local population of approximately 110,000 people.  However, since fighting broke out in the neighbouring Sudanese state of Blue Nile, refugees began making their way by foot, at times walking for up to one month before reaching safety, to Maban County. 

The scale at which this has taken place this year has resulted in the creation of four refugee camps in the county, with a current total population of 112,020.  The humanitarian community has devoted phenomenal resources and efforts to provide life-saving assistance to these refugees.   IOM has been particularly active to make sure adequate water supply, sanitation facilities and hygiene promotion activities are in place at Doro.

However, the uneven provision of assistance, vis-à-vis the host community, has fuelled tensions over scarce resources between the two populations on several occasions this year. To mitigate these frictions, IOM has carried out humanitarian activities that benefit Maban’s host community both directly and indirectly. In Bunj Town, where the county’s headquarters are situated, IOM has repaired two hand pumps and installed two solar stands that include 12 panels allowing for motorized pumping at a major water collection point for the town’s residents. 

In mid December, IOM began drilling two new boreholes in areas accommodating host community members and returnees who have recently arrived to Maban from Sudan.  In addition, an assessment was carried out by IOM in October that identified 24 boreholes in Maban County requiring rehabilitation, and plans are in place to complete these rehabilitations by early 2013.

With the support of the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), IOM has also been able to work with partners through the Rapid Response Fund (RRF) in order to address the urgent needs of Maban’s most vulnerable local communities. 

In Bunj Town and also in remote areas where few humanitarian agencies are present, the American Refugee Committee (ARC) has established four oral rehydration posts that not only distribute oral rehydration solutions to host community members suffering from diarrhoea, but also teach them how to make the solution themselves so that upon the completion of the project, its benefits will be sustained. 

The programme will also rehabilitate ten boreholes that will benefit more than a thousand households. Hygiene and home health promoters will also be spread key hygiene messages and distribute hygiene kits to extremely vulnerable host community individuals (EVIs).

On 14 December, the International Cooperation for Integrated Rural Development (CiDRi) and their local partner, Maban Relief and Development Organization launched a second RRF initiative to support Maban’s host community.

This project will rehabilitate 17 boreholes in very remote locations in Maban County that are currently not accessing safe drinking water.  The benefits of supporting local partners are great, as their local knowledge will ensure the success of the project, and the technical support that they are given by CiDRi will strengthen the capacity of Maban’s local population to become self-sufficient in the future.  

“The risk of tensions between the local population and refugees is compounded by the impact that large numbers of refugees have on an underserved host community that was already affected by very poor access to basic social services prior to the arrival of refugees to Maban”, explained IOM South Sudan’s Head of Operations, Fabien Sambussy. 

With donor support (notably from USAID/OFDA and the Common Humanitarian Fund), IOM is committed to providing assistance to the host community.  The dry season has already begun and poor harvests due to widespread flooding in Maban during the rainy season implies that the needs in Maban are likely to continue rising, as should the efforts of the humanitarian community.