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CANADEM's Humanitarian Response in South Sudan

From May to August 2014, CANADEM Expert Jan Gerrit Brouwer was deployed to South Sudan with UNICEF as a Child Protection in Emergencies Specialist funded by DFATD. During his assignment Jan was able to capture his experience through the following photo essay.


Please find below his story of coordinating protection response in emergencies, and in particular within the context of protection monitoring during food distribution.

One hour’s flight north from Juba, South Sudan. View: east, over looking the town of Mingkaman that is essentially now a giant Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) site. The Nile River is in the background flowing north, from right to left. Most of the people displaced are from the city of Bor, invisible on the far shoreline. When armed conflict broke out this past December, it triggered a mass displacement of civilians fleeing the violence. With no where else to go, thousands (and thousands) of people urgently crossed the river, wading, swimming or in a series of small rafts and boats, with the aim of seeking safety on the other side. The numerous white specs are emergency shelters (tents) issued by responding humanitarian organizations.


Arriving to Mingkaman airfield. World Food Programme (WFP) are the UN global experts in logistics necessary to source, transport, deliver and distribute food in humanitarian crises. In addition to transporting food and non-food items, they provide critical transport for UN staff and NGO staff in to areas not served by general aviation. Here, UNICEF colleague Peter met me on arrival and we will together drive in to the Mingkaman IDP site ‘humanitarian hub’ to drop my gear and then jump right in to the start of the week’s mission in supporting local teams with child protection in emergencies.


Protection cluster meeting in the Mingkaman IDP site Humanitarian Hub, mid June 2014. This is a little or a lot of what humanitarians do, depending on your job description. With thousands of people sheltered in tents, there are not only daily concerns for their access to basic needs of food and water, but protection concerns for those who may be more vulnerable. Termed ‘persons with special needs’. For example, female-headed households, child-headed households (yes, they exist), the elderly, the sick, persons with disabilities, and, unaccompanied and separated children. Specialized response and assistance is essential. A ‘cluster’ in a humanitarian sense is a grouping of actors that have similar mandates under emergency sectors of Health, WASH, Food Security, Nutrition, Protection, Education in Emergencies and others. The aim of a cluster framework is to facilitate coordination across stake-holders and organizations toward improved response and ultimately, improved safety and well-being for the crisis-affected communities.


In most refugee/IDP settings there are specialist organizations to provide for water, hygiene and sanitation (“WASH”). For sanitation, toilets are in the form of drop pit latrines. Various organizations are working hard to construct enough latrines, but the raw ratio in mid 2014 is ‘hundreds of people’ per one latrine. At present, this is below intended standard. Not just from a health and dignity perspective, but as a social protection concern; it is important to have a sufficient number of latrines as it is one way of reducing risk of gender-based violence. Consider those persons extra vulnerable e.g. women and adolescents, where in the absence of access to a latrine, are forced to walk to find bushes and thus face increased risk of violence. This is just one example in demonstrating the essential approach in coordinating across humanitarian sectors in achieving safety and well-being for crisis-affected communities.


View east over Mingkaman IDP site. Demonstrates an aerial view of the Food Distribution Center. In this setting, usually only women deal with acquisition and preparation of daily food for the family. That means men generally do not assist with waiting in line-ups, or facilitating transport of rationed food back to a tent, nor with firewood collection or food preparation. For an able-bodied mother, this is challenging enough.However, some people may not have the same access to the available food as others and thus be considered “food distribution vulnerable”. For example, women-headed households, child-headed households, the elderly, the sick and other persons with special needs. Coordination among responding humanitarian partners seeks to ensure their equitable access to food and other support and thus contribute to their over all protection.


When a family first arrives to Mingkaman IDP site, they are registered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Paperwork and uploading to digital database is enacted. They are issued a tent space and a food ration card. One card per family. It is issued specifically to the mother and the family size is recorded. In this setting, food distribution takes place over 10 to 15 days each month. It can be up to 15 days because the rains can interupt the distribution. During the monthly distribution for the 100,000 or so food-dependent people in Mingkaman, that averages a daily distribution of rations for some 10,000 people, all disbursed from the centre.

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