Going the last mile to reach the most vulnerable affected by conflict

Violent conflict in Tambura has displaced more than 90,000 people in urgent need of assistance

Robin Giri
Displaced child in temporary shelter
20 October 2021

“There are so many children, women, and elderly persons, who had walked for days in the bush to escape the fighting in Tambura county,” says Joseph Andrea Adiomo, Emergency Specialist with UNICEF.

Ongoing fighting in Tambura (Western Equatoria) has displaced over 90,000 people, who have witnessed horrific violence and fled with little more than the clothes they were wearing. The conflict has significantly disrupted life-saving services, including the closure of 16 health and nutrition facilities (70%) in Tambura County which have been damaged, destroyed or had the supplies looted; whilst other services cannot be accessed by populations without risking their safety and protection.

Children are exposed to significant child rights violations. Small children had to walk for weeks, fleeing the violence in their villages to reach safety in Ezo. Other children as young as 13 years were forced to stay in Tambura. They are at risk of being enrolled by armed groups. Girls are exposed to sexual violence. Many children have been separated from their families and even orphaned as a result of the crisis.

As part of UNICEF’s response to the crisis and the humanitarian needs, Joseph led a Rapid Response Mission to Ezo where over 20,000 internally displaced are living in makeshift camps and sharing already strained resources with host communities.

The Rapid Response Missions supported by UNICEF, WFP and partners is a lifeline that can quickly provide urgently needed humanitarian assistance for displaced populations who are under constant threat from hunger, disease and violence. Many have no access to clean drinking water, shelter or basic health facilities, exposing them to risk of disease including diarrhoea and malaria, which can prove deadly if left untreated.

Joseph Andrea Adiomo has just completed an emergency response mission in Tambura.
Joseph Andrea Adiomo has just completed an emergency response mission in Tambura.

During his mission, Joseph was joined by UNICEF staff and partners specializing in health, nutrition, child protection, education, and water and sanitation. Two UNICEF trucks carrying 40 metric tonnes of humanitarian supplies, which included vaccines, medicines, and therapeutic foods to treat malnutrition among children, accompanied them.

During the weeklong mission to Ezo, Joseph and his team distributed 2,000 mosquito nets, vaccinated 4,282 children between 6 months to 15 years against measles and 4,813 children under 15 against polio, screened 3,400 children under 5 for malnutrition, distributed 2,000 soap bars, and rehabilitated two boreholes for drinking water. Education materials were provided to five schools.

With the help of the Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB), UNICEF began identifying children separated from their families and provided them psychosocial support to mitigate the trauma they have been through.

“Among the internally displaced persons, we identified 153 unaccompanied children and children separated from their families. Some are as young as five years old,” says Joseph.

UNICEF and CMMB will assist these children in need while looking for their relatives and planning for reunification with their families.

Joseph’s mission is one of the many that UNICEF and partners are undertaking to support populations affected by conflict. The Rapid Response Missions require complex multi-sectoral planning and face many logistical issues due to the lack of proper roads and high levels of insecurity, often crossing frontlines.

women received WASH & NFI during Ezo response
Women received WASH supplies & Non-Food Items during the Ezo emergency response.

“These are the times when UNICEF and partners must go the extra mile and deliver life-saving support. Our strength is not just the supplies we provide, but also the commitment of our staff to reach the most vulnerable children and women in South Sudan,” says Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan.

The crisis in Tambura comes amidst an already alarming humanitarian situation in South Sudan.  Since the start of the year, more than 4.5 million children are reported needing humanitarian assistance. This year, 1.4 million children are expected to be affected by malnutrition.

While UNICEF and partners call all conflicting parties to cease hostilities and for the violence to end, we will continue to reach remote communities, provide lifesaving services and establish or reopen humanitarian services for communities who are without access to food, healthcare, nutrition, education, and clean water.

UNICEF thanks donors such as GAVI, GPE, CDC, USAID-BHA, European Union, European Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), SIDA, and the US State Dept; along with The People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea, and the Governments of Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom who are supporting the Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) appeal in South Sudan.