South Sudan: Deteriorating health situation for refugees in Yida camp

© V. Wartner/20 MINUTES

Paris, 13 July 2012 – Close to 500 people are arriving at the refugee camp in Yida every day. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, reports that 63,500 people are living in a camp that was originally intended for 15,000 people. The refugees are arriving in extremely poor health, having walked for days, and sometimes weeks, across the Nuba mountains, to escape conflict and food insecurity in Southern Kordofan, Sudan.

“Most of our patients are in shock, and hospital mortality is going up as the camp’s population increases,” explains Dr Mego Terzian, emergency desk manager for the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). “Given the sheer number of patients, we have to focus our attention on those whose lives are at risk and children suffering from diarrhoea, severe infections and malnutrition.”

Hospital mortality has more than doubled

The majority of patients in the MSF-run hospital are children under five years old, and the number of children admitted has increased from 104 to 209 in the past month. Hospital mortality has more than doubled, from 7 to 15 per cent, mainly due to diarrhoea and severe infections, including pneumonia. The percentage of malnourished children seen at outpatient consultations has also increased. MSF teams are doing their utmost to help parents recognise the signs that a child should be brought to hospital as quickly as possible.

Inadequate living conditions

The number of people in Yida has more than tripled since April 2012. The rains have started, the water supply is insufficient, and sanitation is deficient. Despite the efforts of the organisations working in the camp, reception and living conditions for the refugees are utterly inadequate.

“The majority of consultations in MSF’s medical facilities are for waterborne diseases that could be contained if there were enough latrines and adequate access to drinking water,” explains André Heller-Perrache, MSF head of mission in South Sudan.

Increasing capacity

To respond to the increasing needs, MSF, the main medical organisation in the camp, has stepped up its activities by increasing hospital capacity to 60 beds, by adding three tents to the hospital. MSF is also adding to its team: 80 staff are already working in the camp.  


MSF has been working in Yida, in South Sudan's Unity state, since November 2011. MSF runs a hospital in the refugee camp, a consultation service, and provides medical care at the camp registration point. In June, MSF vaccinated over 14,000 children under 15 against measles and continues to vaccinate children aged from six months to five years at the camp registration point. Other MSF teams are providing assistance to Sudanese refugees in Upper Nile state.