As South Sudan observed the fourth anniversary of its independence this week, thousands of civilians spent it crammed into this United Nations base, which was originally intended to lodge people helping the world’s newest nation stand on its own.

Now the base is home to a United Nations peacekeeping force, scores of humanitarian organizations and throngs of desperate civilians, many of whom might have been killed if the gates had not been opened to offer them refuge after the civil war broke out in December 2013.

This compound and five others around the country now accommodate about 153,000 people, even though the places were never meant to be camps or a long-term solution to the humanitarian crisis stemming from the war.

… Despite being under the protection of the United Nations, the camp has been targeted by militia fighters. When rebel forces recently launched an offensive to retake the decimated city of Malakal from the government, fighters opened fire on civilians.