JUBA – The UN Refugee Agency has completed the distribution of non-food items (NFIs) to wildfire victims in Naandi payam (sub-county), Western Equatoria State – refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and host communities.
The four-day distribution targeted 661 families or 2,867 individuals, including 10 families from Naandi who lost their homes in the fire. It is hoped the relief items, which include plastic sheets, tents, jerry cans, mats, soap and sanitary kits will help the victims start a new life.
The fire, which started on 15 February, engulfed four payams (Naandi, Mangbangauo, Degere and Diabio) in Ezo County, destroying homes, personal items and gardens.
Though outside the UNHCR’s core mandate of ensuring protection for asylum seekers, refugees, stateless and internally displaced persons, its intervention can be seen as a goodwill gesture to host communities who welcomed and continue to host refugees fleeing DRC to South Sudan.
UNHCR’s response to wildfire victims also includes a fire prevention awareness campaign on the causes of wildfire outbreaks and how to prevent them, including the setting up of fire breaks in gardens and residential areas. Western Equatoria’s Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC), local authorities, UNHCR and partners started the campaign through word of mouth and local radio broadcasts.
UNHCR and partners thank the state and local authorities, and RRC, for their support. UNHCR considers it highly significant that the impetus for this initiative came directly from the host provincial government in response to an assessment conducted by UNHCR and partners in Ezo. UNHCR also welcomes the statements of support from host communities and their leaders.
While the provincial government has been helping with immediate needs such as seeds for the fire victims, the local authorities in Ezo are eager to put in place a long-term recovery strategy for those who have lost their homes.
“The next step for us is helping in the recovery and rebuilding of these homes and communities,” said County Commissioner Albert Moudie. “We are in the process of rolling out fire prevention awareness campaigns specifically designed for the individuals who were impacted by the fire.” The campaign will also target hunters, fishers, mothers and gardeners.
In South Sudan, there are currently 259,232 refugees. Nearly 90 per cent are from Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Niles States and live in six camps across the northern states of Unity and Upper Nile. The remaining 10 per cent are refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Ethiopia who live mostly in Central and Western Equatoria. In coordination with the Government of South Sudan and partners, UNHCR assists and protects refugees and is part of the multi-agency response to internally displaced South Sudanese, as lead of the Protection Cluster.