WORLDPOST

Life Inside A UN Base Where Thousands Shelter From South Sudan's War

06/09/2015 07:45 pm ET | Updated Jun 09, 2015

JUBA, South Sudan -- When South Sudan's bloody civil war broke out in December 2013, tens of thousands of people fled for their lives to United Nations peacekeeping bases around the country. A year and a half later, the violence shows no sign of letting up and 130,000 people are still living under U.N. protection.

In the capital city of Juba alone, more than 34,000 people are sheltering under the watch of U.N. peacekeepers. Many fled homes both near and far during the first wave of killings 18 months ago, and have been too afraid to leave the base since. "We saw the same things as happened in Rwanda," Majok Yieng, a 43-year-old youth coordinator in the camp, told The WorldPost. "Soldiers went house to house killing people." Other residents of the camp have arrived more recently, bringing tales of fresh horrors with them.

Over the months, small businesses have sprung up along the camp's dusty alleys -- grocery stores, small vegetable plots, a launderette, a cafe and a solar tent to charge cell phones. Yet difficulties abound in the crowded camp.

"We are living in such small shelters, while the sun is burning down on us and there is not enough water," Rebecca Nyayual, 38, told The WorldPost. "The situation in the camp is very bad, and I don't have much hope for the future," she said.

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A security guard at the entrance to the Protection of Civilians site in Juba on June 2, 2015.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission, known as UNMISS, was set up on the eve of South Sudan's independence from Sudan in 2011. It was meant to support peace and development in the new country. That work had barely begun when South Sudan's new leadership came to blows, a conflict that ignited ethnically motivated killings around the country.

Instead of building peace, UNMISS has now been tasked with protecting people from South Sudan's brutal war, which has left tens of thousands dead and displaced over 2 million people.

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Families bathe and wash their clothes inside the PoC site in Juba on June 2, 2015.

The U.N. peacekeepers were overwhelmed by the rush of fleeing civilians. Not mandated to set up formal refugee camps, they invited in humanitarian agencies to provide food, shelter and water. Meanwhile, the 10,500 peacekeepers and 1,000 U.N. police officers have focused on securing the bases from the encroaching war and quieting sporadic clashes inside the camps.

The initial U.N. bases, now called Protection of Civilian (PoC) sites, quickly became overcrowded. During last year's rainy season, several bases turned into unsanitary swamps. The U.N. had to move thousands of civilians to new sites around the country over the past year.

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Trenches dug along the road in the Juba PoC site on June 2, 2015. The summer rainy season reduces much of South Sudan to mud.

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Families hang laundry on the fence around the PoC site in Juba on June 2, 2015.

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Women fill water cans at a well in the PoC site in Juba on June 2, 2015.

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Majok Yieng serves as a youth coordinator at Juba's PoC site.

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Children pose in Juba's PoC site on June 2, 2015.

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Men hang out at the community center in Juba's PoC site on June 2, 2015.

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A man makes a child's dress using the sewing machine at the community center in Juba's PoC site on June 2, 2015.

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A boy walks by a church in the Juba PoC site on June 2, 2015.

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Women walk through Juba's PoC site on June 2, 2015.

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People play in a soccer tournament at Juba's PoC site on June 2, 2015.

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A man builds a hut to sell produce from his small vegetable plot in Juba's PoC site on June 2, 2015.

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Children pose near a makeshift pharmacy at Juba's PoC site on June 2, 2015.

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Rebecca Nyayual said the situation at Juba's PoC site is "very bad."

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An African Union tent and a United Nations vehicle parked at Juba's PoC site on June 2, 2015.

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