The UN peacekeeping operation in South Sudan was severely criticized Wednesday by Doctors Without Borders, the emergency medical charity, over what it called a shameful indifference to the squalid living conditions of 21,000 displaced people forced to live in a flooded portion of a peacekeeping base in the capital, Juba.
The rebuke from Doctors Without Borders was unusual because the charity cooperates with the United Nations in many underserved countries and has been a vital source of aid in South Sudan, which is facing the most severe humanitarian crisis in Africa and perhaps the world, compounded by a political conflict that sharply escalated in December.
About 3.7 million people in South Sudan, a third of the population, are at risk of starvation as the rainy season looms, UN officials have said. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced by the conflict.
In a detailed statement, Doctors Without Borders said officials of the UN Mission in South Sudan, known by its acronym, UNMISS, had failed to respond to repeated requests by the charity to improve conditions at the Juba base, Tomping, where the displaced live in a low-lying area separated by a barbed-wire fence from empty non-flooded space within the compound.
The statement said the first rains of the season had collapsed 150 latrines in Tomping, their contents mixing with flood water and creating a severe risk of waterborne illnesses. It said diarrheal disease, respiratory infections, and skin ailments already accounted for more than 60 percent of the cases seen by the charity’s medical staff in the camp.
Repeated requests by the charity and other relief groups that UNMISS allow residents to relocate to the dry part of Tomping had been refused, Doctors Without Borders said.