Refugees in their own land: South Sudan camps breed idleness, frustration

Displaced people do their daily chores such as bathing, washing clothes, cooking, and fetching water at a United Nations compound which has become home to thousands of people displaced by the recent fighting, in the capital Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 29, 2013.  Ben Curtis/AP/File

Juba, South Sudan — The two UN compounds in South Sudan‘s capital Juba each host a crowded camp of humanity – refugees from 10 weeks of war. As fighting continues despite a flimsy ceasefire signed in Addis Ababa, these camps, or others like them around the country, are places to hear stories of the conflict.

Yet if one didn’t visit these two camps, it would be hard to know that this is the capital of a country at war with itself. Traffic flows serenely. Shops are open and busy – and the only sign of unrest is an 11 p.m curfew.

Indeed, in a visit to the UN compound known as Tomping, which abuts the Juba airport, UN staff in sweatsuits jog in the early morning past long rows of gray air-conditioned offices; at noon, diplomats and peacekeepers eat nice lunches and check emails on Wi-Fi in a wood paneled restaurant.

Yet a few surreal steps away, in what is another world, some 27,000 people are crammed into makeshift shelters set so close together there is often no space to walk between. Some shelters are built beneath old airplane staircases, and others are made of tarps tied to abandoned trucks. People camp next to clogged and smelly drainage canals. Unless they brought a bed frame, everyone sleeps on a ground of hard-packed dust.   Read more…

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