26 May 2015
People are in “dire need” of help after recent fighting in South Sudan, the Red Cross has warned.
Some 100,000 people were forced to flee the northern town of Leer in the last week due to a rise in violence.
Residents have begun to return home, but have little or no food, and are in urgent need of medical care. Several houses have been burnt to the ground.
The violence forced the Red Cross to suspend relief work and withdraw some staff from Leer, in Unity State. It is now the first humanitarian organisation to return to the town.
Furniture and four Red Cross vehicles were looted from the Red Cross compound. The Red Cross is working to re-start its operations.
“The situation here in Leer is extremely serious, people are only just beginning to come back,” said Daniel Littlejohn-Carrillo, who leads Red Cross work in the region.
“We know of several casualties of violence in the villages around here. The needs – in terms of water, food, other forms of health care and shelter – are dire, and we expect them to grow substantially fairly quickly.”
Nyajiok Ruai fled the town with her 10 children, who are aged between seven months and 12 years.
The family was forced to sleep in the open and drink dirty water. They had little food and were exposed to malarial mosquitoes.
When Nyajiok returned to Leer she discovered that her home and everything in it, including food given by the Red Cross, had been destroyed.
Another resident, John Jal Riak, walked for eight hours to find safety from the fighting. The 23-year-old survived by eating water lilies and coconuts.
He slept outside and would cover himself with leaves to protect against mosquitoes.
“Yes, now we are safe,” he said, having returned to Leer. “The problem now is we need to eat some food. The community is really suffering.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) plans to fly food and other supplies for roughly 6,000 people to Leer today.
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