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IDPs receive food in Malakal on the 24th June. According to a joint United Nations report, 21,000 people will likely face a catastrophic food shortage, and about 1.82M will face emergency and other 5.12 million people will face food insecurity. (Photo: Sheila Ponnie)

By Sheila Ponnie

In the 2013, heavy fighting consumed Malakal town in South Sudan and led to massive casualties and displacements of more than 27,000 people from their homes.

Juba Monitor’s Sheila Ponnie travelled to Malakal State in Central Upper Nile Region to speak to some women in the Protection of Civilians Site (POC) in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The women are part of the lot that is not willing to return to their homes because their homes no longer exist.

“We have never tried to go back home because our homes no longer exist, if we go back, where will our children be put, where will we start, no job and things are not even settled for their people staying in our homes and their men in uniform so where are we turning to,” says a woman who  sought anonymity.

They stay in poor conditions with other 27,000 people in the Central Upper Nile region including women and children.

Giben John, 37, is one of the beneficiaries who received food items including vegetable cooking oil, 10.5kg of cereals, washing soap and some SSP350 to buy some salt.

“I will continue to stay in the camp until I see that it is safe for me and my family to return home and besides there are no jobs and food out there for me to feed my eleven children, even though the food ratio given to us here has been reduced, I will still stay here,” she said.

Giben said despite receiving the monthly food ratio, she is unwilling to return home unless the parties to the conflict solve issues that fuel conflict in South Sudan.

She has been staying in the camp since the war broke out in 2013 and never changed her mind about how long she intends to stay there.

“I am not ready to go anywhere, besides which homes are we going back to? Our houses are no more; we do not have the power to rebuild the houses that were destroyed during the war so there is no need to go to an empty place,” says 40 year old Nyabol Awok.

With anger visibly painted on her face, the mother of eleven asks, “After all these six years how do I even think of returning home, she questioned?

Mary Laa says she ran out of her home when the war broke out. On that fateful day, she was pounding maize grains because she did not have money to take the maize to the poshomill.

“Well, before the 2013 war, things were good outside their, me and my husband used to do farming and fishing. We used to make our own food but now we are depending on humanitarian aid,” Laa recounts.

She says she never thought she would be living in a tiny tented house with her 12 children.

“I live in this poor condition but you know I would rather stay here than going back to a place that brings back bad memories. Where do I even start from after my house was taken over by people I don’t even know?

She says even though life in the IDP camp is not all that well, she is happy that World Food Programme [WFP] provides her family with some basics including food.

Grace, a mother of three children said they entirely depend on the aid from the WFP and fears for the worse if the organization doesn’t support them.

“The little food we receive from the WFP helps me and my family to survive even if the ratio has been cut,” she says.

Grace says she has been staying in the camp for six years and has never thought of going back to her house because of insecurity.

She also fears for her source of livelihood if she decides to return home.

Last week, WFP partnered with the government of South Sudan and other UN agencies to explain the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), the effective implementation of the peace agreement

The grouping observed that political stability is imperative to allow urgent and scaled up humanitarian assistance to protect livelihood in the country.

Callixte Kayitare, head of World Food Programme’s office in the Upper Nile said that the Internally Displaced Persons living in the POCs rely on food aid from WFP because they don’t have jobs or even land for farming.

“Before we used to give enough food but then last year resources that were in the country where not enough to feed all the people who are in need of support including all the IDPs and refugees in the country,” he said.

Tomson Phiri, Communication Officer at WFP said the agency provides food assistance to the most vulnerable people in the country.

“We use a mix means of transport to reach people who are in need. For the very first time in 2019, we have been able to preposition food in warehouses in about 60 areas of the country before the onset of the rainy season. This means we will be able to reach people quickly by roads,” Phiri said.

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