Wednesday, May 28, 2014

South Sudan: Tens of thousands more South Sudanese have fled fighting following truce

A group of displaced women and children rest on Ethiopian territory after crossing the Baro River from South Sudan. Photo: UNHCR/L.F. Godinho 

UN -  27 May 2014 – Some 70,000 more people have fled their homes in South Sudan since a 9 May agreement was signed to end the fighting that has ravaged the world’s youngest nation for over six months, the United Nations refugee agency said today.

“In South Sudan, the number of people fleeing fighting continues to rise almost three weeks on from a truce agreement,” Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said at a press briefing in Geneva.

Since the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement in Addis Ababa, Mr. Edwards said, the number of internally displaced people has grown by 46,000 people to 1,005,096. Over the same period, the number of South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda has risen by over 20,000 to 370,000 people.

South Sudan has been enmeshed in a crisis which began in mid-December 2013 as a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy president, Riek Machar, who had been forced from office earlier that year.

The in-fighting has since erupted into a deadly conflict forcing tens of thousands of people to seek refuge at UN bases around the country. The political rivals signed an ‘Agreement to Resolve the Crisis’ last month with the aim of ending the violence.

At today’s briefing, Mr. Edwards said that Ethiopia currently hosts the largest South Sudanese refugee population at 131,051 people, mostly women and children. Recent arrivals say they have fled fighting in neighbouring Jonglei and Upper Nile states, fearing attacks or lack of food.

To accommodate the refugees, UNHCR and the Ethiopian authorities have opened three new camps this year. “With an average of 1,000 South Sudanese arriving daily in Ethiopia, we have already started looking for additional land for a fourth camp,” Mr. Edwards said.

Commenting on those displaced within South Sudan in a press briefing in Juba today, a spokesperson for the UN peacekeeping mission known as UNMISS said that as of today between 75,000 and 80,000 civilians have sought safety in the Mission’s main protection sites.

Stressing that those sites were never meant to be a durable solution, the spokesperson reported that rain, along with clogged drains and congestion, have turned them into breeding grounds for water-borne diseases, including cholera.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said today that it was working closely with its partners and the South Sudan Ministry of Health to stem the cholera outbreak in the country, where, the agency said, more than 514 cases have been reported so far.