An estimated 36,000 people have been forced out of their houses by the recent violence in Juba, starting Friday night, July 8, at the Presidential Palace in Juba and spreading quickly acorss the capital.
Timothy Irwin, Chief of Communications at UNICEF in Juba who is working with several other humanitarian partners, said the arrival of water trucks at the UNMISS Protection of Civilians (PoC) site on Thursday, July 14, was an immediate relief for the displaced people.
They had been struggling to find local sources of water.
“The residents of the POC were extremely happy to see us, they had been struggling to find local sources of water, drinking out of a stream. They showed me the water it did not look very good,” Irwin said. Teams were also sent to provide assistance to Internally Displaced People (IDPs) at the base in Thomping, said Irwin.
“They were distributing water and sanitation materials today, things like water containers, buckets, soap, and putting some latrines in place and I think we will also going to be distributing some primary health kits as well,” Irwin added.
Irwin said UNICEF received permission on Wednesday, July 13, to move freely and reach displaced people in different locations across Juba – many living in appalling conditions. He said their team started with what was needed most after days of starvation – nutritional support.
“We provided four-day-rations to several hundred people in Thomping, but also in the St. Joseph’s Cathedral,” said Irwin, adding that UNICEF has drawn up plans to reach 50,000 people in need. But he said this is just a planning figure and the humanitarian response needs to expanded urgently.
“There are only estimates around this time that 36,000 people were displaced by the fighting. So I think a more precise number will be available in the next couple of days,” he said.
Just like the humanitarian crisis in Wau last month, where thousands of people are still displaced and in need of assistance, Irwin said, the fighting in Juba took aid workers by surprise. He said donors need to pitch in more money to meet these massive humanitarian needs.
“Both of these were unexpected and of course put an extra strain on our resources – both physical resources and manpower resources, but of course financial resources too,” he said.
UNICEF also works hard to reunify children, who lost their parents in the chaos of fighting, with their families.