Conflict has plagued South Sudan since it gained independence in 2011. Over two million South Sudanese people have fled into neighbouring countries such as the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, often with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. An additional 1.74 million people remain displaced inside the country.
When the fighting started, civilians looked for protection and refuge at existing United Nations bases. These have since become Protection of Civilian camps, or POCs. While these camps offer safety from the fighting, they are perilous in other ways. Camps initially built to house people for no more than 72 hours have become people’s homes for over seven years. Conditions are dire; sanitation is appalling, food is scarce, opportunities to earn a living are non-existent, disease is rife, and hunger is constant.
Some families are choosing to return home once it has become safe. But they often come back to nothing – livestock have died or have been stolen, their once carefully tended fields have been laid to ruin, and any crops that had previously been planted have long since died. Having already lost everything, they have no resources left to start again.