As the fighting continues in South Sudan, United Nations humanitarian agencies warned today that the approach of the rainy season is a major concern for the 706,000 people displaced since the beginning of the crisis in December 2013, 77,000 of which are seeking refuge at UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) bases.
On Friday 7 March, the first major rainstorm of the season caused flooding and destroyed or damaged hundreds of tents in a UNMISS base in Juba. Though the tents were able to be fixed and there were no reports of injured civilians, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other UN partners are working to develop ways to mitigate the risks of flooding and associated health and safety concerns.
"The shelter and non-food relief item humanitarian cluster, co-led by IOM, is currently testing a shelter prototype for the rainy season using sandbags, floor elevation and additional framing materials to fortify existing shelters," said IOM spokesperson Chris Lom at a press briefing in Geneva.
He stressed that the cluster is "also working to decongest displacement sites by identifying space for expansion, and were prepositioning relief supplies in anticipation of logistical constraints caused by flooded roads."
In addition to the threat posed by inclement weather, humanitarian actors continue to face major challenges caused by constant insecurity. Recent fighting in the flashpoint town of Malakal, capital of South Sudan's Upper Nile state, forced the halt of humanitarian operations for several days and created serious obstacles to delivering aid.
According to Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the UN Information Service in Geneva, UN-backed talks are currently underway to find a political solution and put an end to the violence.
Meanwhile, Tarik Jasarevic, spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO), updated reporters on cholera vaccinations. He said that yesterday, the initiative had commenced in a third location - UN House in Juba - with more than 3,300 people receiving the vaccinations.
The first round had been completed a week earlier, with more than 65,000 people vaccinated. Mr. Jasarevic explained that cholera vaccinations required two rounds, so all of those people would be revaccinated shortly.
Asked whether there had been an actual outbreak of cholera, he said that the operation was of a preventive nature, and it was using an existing stockpile managed by WHO, UNICEF, Medecins sans Frontiers and partners. "Internally displaced persons in UN camps are considered to be at high risk. Fortunately, they were easy to access and easy to re-vaccinate two weeks later," he said.