'Alarming' deaths in war-torn S Sudan UN camp

2014-06-20 15:12

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Juba - Conditions in a squalid UN base in war-torn South Sudan where some 45 000 terrified civilians have fled fearing revenge attacks are causing an "alarming number of deaths", Doctors Without Borders said on Friday.

Three children aged under five are dying every day in the camp in Bentiu, capital of the oil-producing Unity state and one of the areas hardest hit by over six months of civil war in the world's youngest nation, Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, MSF) said.

"People came here for safety but they are facing life-threatening conditions inside the camps," said Nora Echaibi, who is running the MSF hospital the camp in Bentiu. "It is rapidly becoming catastrophic."

The UN Mission in South Sudan - which opened the doors to its bases to over 95 000 civilians fleeing conflict, many crowded into areas formerly used for parking vehicles - has been working to set up new sites.

"Preventable diseases and severe acute malnutrition are causing an alarming number of deaths," MSF said, adding that torrential rains had left large areas of the camp under water.

"Most of the deaths are due to acute diarrhoea, pneumonia and malnutrition which are linked to the harsh conditions."

Widespread atrocities

There is only one latrine for more than 240 people, and in baking heat, people are surviving off less than five litres of clean water a day.

"Residents are forced to drink from puddles that are often contaminated with human waste," MSF said.

People continue to arrive for the protection of the UN camps, with peacekeepers now hosting 95 000 across the country, the highest number since war broke out in December between President Salva Kiir and rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar.

The fighting between Kiir and Machar's forces has been marked by widespread atrocities and, according to aid agencies, has pushed the world's youngest nation to the brink of famine.

The fighting started when Kiir accused Machar of attempting a coup, a charge which Machar denies. The rebel leader has in turn accused the president of being a "dictator" and trying to purge his rivals.

The latest round of peace talks to end the war is due to open Friday in the Ethiopian capital, but previous planned sessions have been repeatedly delayed.

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