Helping hands: Yirol East residents welcome displaced people in their midst

UNMISS displaced civilians women orphans children peacekeepers UN peacekeeping South Sudan climate change rainy season displacement conflict yirol lakes unity

Residents of Yirol east in Lakes, South Sudan, have proved to be true partners at a time of need to displaced people from Panyijir who escaped devastating floods in the Unity region and sought refuge with their kind-hearted neighbours across state lines.

5 Apr 2022

Helping hands: Yirol East residents welcome displaced people in their midst

Nina Zubovic Vignjevic & Priyanka Chowdhury

LAKES – Climate change has hit South Sudan hard.

Unrelenting rains last year have destroyed people’s homes, livelihoods, leaving them with nothing but the clothes on their back and bereft of hope.

Communities from Panyijir, Unity state, were among the worst affected by rising water levels; they, therefore, crossed state lines with their livestock and sought refuge in Yirol east, a county in neighbouring Lakes.

While the new arrivals spread out across several payams [administrative divisions], what remained constant was the hospitality they received from host communities.

“It was as if we emerged from the darkest of tunnels into to a place of sunshine,” said Qathuk Fwal Boath, a representative of the displaced community.

“Our sisters and brothers across Yirol went out of their way to make sure we had immediate relief after the long distances we travelled to get to dry ground. We feel safe with them though we still need food, water, and shelter. But the people here help us as much as they can and we are eternally grateful,” he continued.

Initially, county leadership rallied to allocate adequate land to displaced persons so that they can take up temporary residence. However, lack of food and water at this location has led to many of the newly dispossessed becoming more integrated into the community at large.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is also doing its part to provide succor to the growing displaced population here.

Representatives from the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Gender Affairs Unit recently met with displaced women, listened to their concerns, and handed over dignity kits, aprons, and seeds to help them generate income as well as overcome the food shortage.

“It’s necessary for us as a peace operation to build trust and confidence among the newly displaced in Yirol,” revealed Adama Njie, a Gender Affairs Officer with the mission’s Field Office in Rumbek.

“They have suffered immensely and are still in dire need of humanitarian assistance but until our humanitarian partners can reach them, UNMISS is here to support in any way we can,” she added.

For County Commissioner Manyang Luk, such a show of solidarity from UNMISS does much to reinforce his own efforts on behalf of the displaced.

“We are happy to see UNMISS in our midst. You can witness firsthand our efforts to provide relief to our visitors, but we hope the UN family and the national government will step up to address outstanding needs,” he stated.

Currently some 4,266 displaced women and 32 orphans are estimated to be sheltering in Yirol.