Target: Hilde Johnson, head of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan
Goal: Demand interim measures to ease congestion and risk of disease due to conditions at the Tomping refugee camp
The horrors of war and genocide in South Sudan have displaced hundreds of thousands of people. A third of the population is at risk of starvation. Many refugees are struggling to survive in cramped, makeshift camps where the threat of disease is a daily concern. While the United Nations (UN) Mission in South Sudan has provided temporary space for refugees, the organization has come under harsh criticism for not improving horrific conditions within its camps.
Roughly 21,000 refugees are living on a portion of the UN headquarters near the capital city of Juba now known as the Tomping camp. According to the humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) 150 pit toilets in the camp collapsed with the season’s first rainfall leaving their contents to mix with floodwater. Despite repeated appeals for the camp to be expanded onto higher ground within the UN property little has been done to improve conditions. With the start of the rainy season underway it is only a matter of time before “diarrheal diseases, respiratory infections, and skin diseases” already persistent in the camp become epidemic.
Hilde Johnson, who heads the UN Mission in South Sudan, has admitted that Tomping camp is “at imminent risk of turning into a death trap.” Demand action to help resettle refugees and improve conditions in the camp before it is too late.
Dear Ms. Johnson,
Let me begin by commending you for taking on a mission as challenging and complex as the one underway in South Sudan. I understand that the conditions there are beyond the comprehension of most people, and that providing aid to traumatized refugees is never an easy task. There is no excuse however for the deplorable conditions that persist at the Tomping camp.
Carolina Lopez, MSF emergency coordinator in South Sudan, has condemned the UN’s failure to improve conditions. “People are living in natural drainage channels because there is no other space,” she said. “And the rains, which will last the better part of six months, are becoming heavier. If nothing is done right now, the already horrific consequences could become fatal.”
The UN has admitted urgent interim measures must be taken as long-term relocation will take time that refugees simply do not have. I implore you to focus UN resources on improving conditions and helping immediately resettle the refugees living in Tomping to higher ground within the compound, or else to a more suitable site altogether.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: UK Department for International Development via Flickr