South Sudan: Medical situation remains fragile in Bentiu protection of civilians site

It has been almost three years since the conflict began in South Sudan, and violence is ongoing in Unity State. Regular outbreaks of unrest force civilians to leave their homes and prevent people, some of whom have been living in the protection of civilians site (PoC) for years, from returning to their villages.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been running a hospital in Bentiu PoC since 2013, providing free quality secondary healthcare to people living in the camp. Inside the PoC, the humanitarian situation remains acute and fragile, and the heath situation could quickly worsen. “Today, even though our emergency indicators are not alarming, the situation is very fragile and all organisations need to ensure that humanitarian assistance available in the camp, such as drinkable water, food provision, primary healthcare, and shelters do not falter,” explains Liz Harding, MSF head of mission in South Sudan.

Recent cases of cholera inside the PoC have demonstrated the risk of large-scale outbreaks in the camp. “We have treated 188 patients in over three weeks with suspected cholera and, thanks to cooperation between all the health organisations working inside the PoC, a number of people have been treated as outpatients without requiring hospitalisation,” explains Harding. “This has been a success, but it has also shown us that we must remain vigilant.”

The population of the PoC continues to grow, as more people arrive. “The situation is still extremely tense in this area of the country, preventing people from going back to their village and bringing new arrivals into the camp,” says Harding. “People are arriving from the southern areas of the state after having walked for several days. They have fled violence and endured violence during their long walk. The PoC needs to continue to provide the basic life support they need, such as access to sufficient food and water, shelter and health services, on arrival.”

Read testimonies from the Bentiu PoC.