(Jason Patinkin and Simona Foltyn, IRIN) - When South Sudan’s civil war broke out in 2013, much of Equatoria – the country’s breadbasket – managed
to stay out of the conflict. But that respite was short lived. As the government army began purging the region of perceived opponents last year, it triggered the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis, with the United Nations warning of a potential genocide.
Civilians hanging on
Direct violence isn't the only threat to Kajo Keji's civilians. Taban Dafala is the only doctor in the clinic in Jalimo, the furthest east IRIN saw civilians in the county. With a stubbled face and tired eyes, he treats about 10 people per day, compared to 60 before the war, as so many have fled.
The town is home to the IO – Dafala and his assistant are the only civilian inhabitants. Dafala's patients do not live in Jalimo. Instead, they come in each day from the bush for treatment before returning to their forest hideouts.
"Malaria is the major problem, then typhoid, hook works, worms in general, fungal infection, skin problems," he said. "There is no water, even for bathing, for washing clothes, and that's why the skin diseases are affecting them."
Dafala doesn't have enough drugs to treat his patients. There's not even a first aid kit, he said. This lack of medicine and basic supplies is similar across the county because the government has largely blocked aid deliveries, including at least six convoys of aid sent from Juba for the displaced persons camps in the county's west. Government forces would not let them enter rebel areas.
The few drugs in Dafala's clinic are mostly painkillers and antibiotics that he bought with a donation from a foreign aid group and smuggled across the border on a motorbike, avoiding official border crossings manned by government troops.
"I am using the shortcuts," he said. "If I come by the government soldiers, I will be arrested, because when I transport drugs here, they may say I am coming to treat the IOs."
The majority of the civilians still in Kajo Keji are in the three camps in the west, loose collections of mud, grass, and plastic huts. Collectively, they house around 30,000 people, according to the UN.
In Logo, a camp of some 17,000 near the Ugandan border, residents complain of hunger. A few aid groups have managed to slip across to deliver seeds for the people to plant, but there have been no general food distributions, and little else.
The problem is that even the aid coming from Uganda is controlled by Juba. Unlike in previous wars in Sudan, aid groups have refused to launch parallel operations from neighbouring countries to reach civilians in rebel areas.
That means anything brought in from Uganda is coordinated through aid agencies in Juba that operate with government permission. Juba-based aid workers who travelled to Logo on day trips from Uganda were so worried about Kiir’s government revoking their meagre access that they asked not be quoted, photographed, or have their organisations named.