– Handicap International sends emergency team to help the most vulnerable in South Sudan crisis

Published on: Jan 7, 2014

A five-strong Handicap International team arrived in South Sudan on Friday 3rd January to supply aid to displaced people. Violent clashes between armed groups in the country have forced almost 200,000 people to flee their towns and villages. The inhabitants of South Sudan – one of the poorest countries in the world – already live in extreme poverty and need immediate aid to survive.

“South Sudan is sliding towards civil war. That’s obviously going to put a lot of strain on the most vulnerable individuals,” said Lucile Papon, manager of Handicap International’s operations in the region. “We’re extremely concerned about the lack of facilities on the ground and the difficulty of getting through to people, which has led to a severe shortage of basic necessities, such as food, accommodation and care.”

“We’re focusing on the most vulnerable individuals. When there’s a breakdown in law and order, they’re always the first to suffer because they can’t travel, making it difficult to access the aid they need,” said Lucile.

The fragile peace in place in South Sudan since it proclaimed independence in July 2011 has broken down. An upsurge in fighting between government and opposition forces has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. According to the United Nations [1], there are more than 200,000 displaced people in South Sudan, including 76,000 in the region of Bor, north of the capital Juba. UN forces have come under attack, making it impossible to guarantee the safety of the relatively small number of displaced people – 57,000 – who have taken shelter in the camps. Despite a lull in the conflict in Juba, the overall situation remains extremely volatile and there are regular outbreaks of fighting.

Handicap International’s staff – who were working in South Sudan long before the present crisis – were forced to break off their work and some teams had to be evacuated. Handicap International’s offices in Bor – like most aid organisations – were completely destroyed. A five-strong team is now in Juba to reopen the offices and identify the needs of the most vulnerable refugees.

Handicap International, which regularly operates under difficult conditions, plans to supply aid to these individuals via Disability and Vulnerability Focal Points (DVFPs) set up in the affected areas. Teams will identify the most vulnerable people and supply them with direct aid (healthcare, basic needs, etc.) or refer them to other humanitarian organisations in the area.

Handicap International may also provide rehabilitation care to those injured in the fighting. “It’s really important to care for the injured and to provide proper follow up, otherwise their health could deteriorate or they could develop permanent disabilities,” said Lucile Papon. “As we evaluate the situation over the next few days, we’ll get a clearer idea of their needs and respond accordingly.”

Handicap International first deployed a team in what is now South Sudan in 2006. Displaced people and refugees returning to their region of origin, which had been devastated by fighting, were facing a serious emergency. These initial emergency actions have now evolved into longer-term projects.

[1] OCHA, 1 January 2014

For media enquiries, please contact:
Tom Shelton, Handicap International UK 
Email: tom.shelton@hi-uk.org 
Mob: 44 (0)7508 820 520
Tel: 44 (0)870 774 3737

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