July 8, 2014(Bentiu) — Gravediggers in South Sudan say they have buried over 200 people in a displaced camp in Bentiu over the past few months, most of them children. Every day several children are usually buried, having died of disease or malnutrition.
A journalist reporting for the Dutch radio station Radio EenVandaag, said that the children are buried near the camp where they died, the UN ‘Protection of Civilians Site’ in Bentiu.
About 46,000 people are taking refuge in the camp. They are ethnically Nuer, a group that has sought UN protection from attacks. They live without adequate food, water and other services.
The organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) stated last month that at least three children under 5 years old die per day in the camp. MSF said most of the deaths were from preventable diseases like acute diarrhoea, pneumonia, and malnutrition.
According to the radio report, there are ten to twenty graves near the UN camp, each one containing about ten to fifteen bodies, mostly children.
Simon, a camp resident who is responsible for burials of the children, says that since the month of May there were probably 200-250 people buried, most of them children. They die because of malnutrition, diarrhea, and other diseases caused by the poor hygienic conditions in the camp.
He says that he normally buries people right away, with as much dignity as possible. The bodies are collected from a small thatched hut that serves as a mortuary, then taken outside the camp.
Veronica, 27-years old, lost her one-year old son. She explains that her son was already weak when they arrived at the camp. He had diarrhea. He was treated at the hospital and was then allowed to go home.
He seemed stronger, and played with other children, until he suddenly began to cry and he collapsed; three minutes later he was dead.
The bodies are taken by car from the hospital to the graveyard, together with the family members. From the car the mothers walk by foot over a muddy path.
Wrapped in white plastic, the bodies of the children are handed over to be placed in the grave. The mothers throw a hand full of dirt into the grave. The burial is over.