Sudanese children aided by IDF soldiers..
(photo credit: ISRAAID)
Two former IDF combat soldiers representing Israeli NGO iAid were recently on the Ugandan border to help alleviate the desperate situation of those who have fled South Sudan to one of the world’s largest refugee camps.
Following decades of civil war, economic crisis and famine in South Sudan, over 11 million residents – including millions of women and children, who face ongoing and pervasive patterns of violence – have been displaced.
Seeking a safe haven since the region’s 2011 secession, many have fled to the Ugandan border, with upwards of 6,000 new refugees of all ages arriving daily to escape the turmoil.
In an effort to support the conflict’s most vulnerable displaced communities, the two former combat soldiers were there to utilize their elite training to assess the situation and provide much-needed support for sustainability.
According to a Channel 2 report, the soldiers, whose identities have not been revealed, reported an overwhelmingly dystopian climate defined by government corruption and a dearth of food, medical supplies and order.
Upon arriving at the camp, the soldiers, who recently returned to Israel to share their insights on how to better aid the refugees, said they encountered immediate resistance from a Ugandan government official who demanded money for any assistance.
“The guy just flat out asked us for a bribe,” one of the soldiers recounted to Channel 2.
“We tried to refuse politely and he said, ‘If you don’t give it, you’re out of here. You’ll be in big trouble.’” Once inside the camp, the soldiers said the refugees receive “minimal portions of food that are barely enough to keep them alive.”
They added that women with babies and no husbands have to “build their own tents and stand in line for food in the heat for hours while breastfeeding their babies.”
In March, the United Nations Refugee Agency reported that 1.6 million South Sudanese residents have either been displaced or have fled to neighboring countries in the past eight months alone.
The majority of refugees from South Sudan go to Uganda, where new arrivals spiked to as many as 6,000 per day in February, and currently average more than 2,800 people per day.
David Shearer, head of the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, warned that as the security situation in the country continues to worsen, international authorities are not taking action.
“The situation in South Sudan continues to deteriorate and generate profound human suffering for the population of that country; suffering in which local and ethnic divisions have been exploited for political ends,” said Shearer.
Aid agencies, including the World Food Program and UNICEF, have said that 40% of the population in South Sudan urgently require food, adding that if the international community does not intervene, 20 million people could find themselves in a state of starvation within the next six months.
While the Israeli government has attempted to prevent the inflow of refugees from Sudan seeking political asylum by referring to them as “infiltrators” and placing them in detention facilities in the Negev, NGOs such as iAid and IsraAID continue to dispatch aid workers to the war-torn region.
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