An aerial views of the Yida camps, where some 60,000 Sudanese refugees are seeking sanctuary just 12 miles inside the borders of South Sudan, and where mortality rates for children and adults alike are well above emergency thresholds.
Having fled aerial bombardments and longstanding deprivation, they found in Yida a sprawling camp short on resources and services and offering living conditions that have worsened dramatically with the onset of the rainy season. Photographer John Stanmeyer of VII Photo is in Yida this week, and captured the following images of people in dire need of assistance, enduring circumstances that are already claiming, according to epidemiological data, the lives of more than five children each day. “The number of children dying in Yida is appalling,” said André Heller Pérache, MSF head of mission in South Sudan, earlier this month.
South Sudan came into being a year ago but remains fragile today: It is rife with violent conflict and corruption, and sorely lacks infrastructure.
In 2005, a peace treaty between Sudan’s mostly Muslim North and mostly Christian South put an end to Africa’s longest civil war and set in motion a process for the South to become independent. After almost 99 percent of the population voted for separation in January 2011, the leaders of the main Southern rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, became the de facto leaders of the new nation. Today, the country is among the worst in health and education rankings globally. And President Salva Kiir recently admitted that the country’s leadership stole $4 billion in funds intended for clinics, roads, and schools.
We have a real emergency on our hands. We are providing medical care and treating and distributing 90,000 liters of water a day at a temporary gathering point. But the ponds here will be empty at the end of this week—after that the situation becomes critical.
MSF Forced to Suspend Lifesaving Medical Activities After Restrictions Imposed on Its Work
As a result of increasing restrictions imposed by Sudanese authorities, MSF has been forced to suspend most of its medical activities in the Jebel Si region of North Darfur State in Sudan.
Increasing obstacles over the past year led to the suspension of MSF’s activities. No shipments of drugs or medical supplies have been authorized since September 2011, and MSF has encountered growing difficulties obtaining work and travel permits for its staff. Transport options to and from Jebel Si have also been drastically reduced. MSF has been the sole health provider in the region.
“With the reduction of our activities in Jebel Si, more than 100,000 people in the region are left entirely without health care,” said Alberto Cristina, MSF operational manager for Sudan. “If we are not allowed to deliver medicines and supplies to our hospital and health posts soon, disease outbreaks are likely to occur, and maternal and prenatal deaths are likely to increase and may even reach emergency levels.”
Photo: Mothers and children at an MSF facility in Jebel Si, where obstacles threaten MSF’s continued operation
As a Sudanese, I am concerned not because I would like foreigners to stay out of internal affairs, but because the view Clooney is presenting to the world is not an accurate one. This is not out of any deliberate manipulation on his part, but Clooney’s campaign is rooted in a political culture that does not care for nuance.
It all really goes deeper than the criticism aimed at his Enough Project, the Save Darfur campaign, or the “genocide paparazzi” satellite monitoring scheme – all of which are symptomatic of an overarching failure in US foreign policy, which promotes a black-and-white understanding of some situations, often underscored by moral superiority. After all, “Arabs are genocidally massacring blacks in the Nuba mountains” is far sexier and easier to digest than “the people of the Nuba mountains sided with the Southern People’s Liberation Movement during Sudan’s decades-long civil war between north and south, and after the secession of the south last year, a disgruntled SPLM candidate for governor lost what he believed were rigged elections and then took arms against the government in Khartoum in co-operation with the residual Nuba SPLM cadre, whose grievances had still not been addressed”.
March 13: Clooney addresses the Council of Foreign Affairs re: Sudan March 14: Clooney testifies at the Senate Foreign Affairs Relations Sudan & South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity hearing. March 15: Clooney meets with Barack Obama to discuss Sudan March 16: Clooney is arrested protesting at the Embassy of Sudan in Washington DC