Sudan refugees reduced to eating bark
20 June 2012, 17:04
Kilometre 18 - A bitter war between Khartoum and
rebels in Sudan's troubled Blue Nile state has sent tens of thousands of
people fleeing to the transit site known only as KM 18 in South Sudan.
fled shelling in their home villages with little supplies, many of the
35 000 people who have sought refuge at this site 50km from the border -
even children - have been reduced to gnawing at tree bark and eating
leaves to survive.
"We brought a little bit of sorghum with us
and water ... but then the food ran out, and we were just eating the
leaves of trees," said Hawa Jema, as she gulped down rehydrating fluids
in the 40 degree heat at a clinic run by Medecins sans Frontieres
(Doctors Without Borders - MSF).
"On the way, some people died
from the water, and even some men died because they were too weak to
walk," said Jema, who was at least fortunate enough to be able to bring
some camels when she and her family fled.
Five days without food
Close by, two small children scrape furiously at the bark of a tree stump, stuffing shreds of it into their mouths.
her granddaughter Khalifa, Anima Hassan Omer sits on a mat surrounded
by mothers feeding tiny blobs of high-fat paste and sips of water to
babies with huge knees and baggy skin.
Khalifa's mother went missing along the way when she went to fetch water, and so the baby survived on dirty water.
five days we had no food. We ate tree leaves and drank any water we
found on the road," said Ali Osman, displaying a shrapnel wound to the
leg sustained when he fled shelling in Jam village in Bau County.
100 000 people have fled fighting in Blue Nile state to South Sudan
since war broke out in September between Khartoum and rebels that fought
alongside the South during decades of civil war.
"As we were coming, the army sent big bombs and I was injured on the leg," said Osman, who fled along with his five children.
‘We lost everything’
Many new arrivals echo this story of fleeing shelling with nothing.
Omer fled Bau County, just like Osman.
left because of the big guns - the ones from the Antonov (planes), the
ones from soldiers on the ground and the ones from far away," she told
"We lost everything. We don't have sheets, clothes, not even a plastic bucket."
says that Khalifa was in her last gasps when she came to the clinic.
She is unable to keep the water or the plumpy'nut peanut paste down and
has been transferred to the MSF hospital in Jamam refugee camp for
Malnutrition above emergency levels
But food and water shortages and illness have followed the refugees across the border.
a lack of water, there's a lack of sanitation and a lack of latrines,
which results in a lot of diarrhoeal diseases," MSF doctor Erna
"We see a big increase in the number of
consultations. We had just over 500 last week. Half way through this
week we had already over 900," she said.
MSF says that
malnutrition levels are way above emergency levels, especially in
children under five, and that diarrhoea can easily prove deadly in
refugees weakened by time on the road without food.
inadequate shelter and a lack of mosquito nets mean the refugees are
also suffering from respiratory diseases and malaria.
even while rain will soon cut off roads, drinking water will soon run
out at KM18, where tens of thousands of refugees all need to drink from a
limited number of man-made watering holes.
"We are racing against two clocks," Rijnierse said.