Victims of attack on UNHCR in Yei in stable condition in Nairobi hospital

News Stories, 17 March 2006

© UNHCR/H.Caux
Yei town in south Sudan where the dramatic incident at UNHCR's compound took place on Wednesday. The banner relates to a campaign late last year on violence against women.

GENEVA, Mar 17 (UNHCR) A UNHCR staff member and a local guard severely injured in an attack Wednesday night on the refugee agency's compound in Yei, south Sudan, are now in a stable condition in a Nairobi hospital after being evacuated by air yesterday from south Sudan's capital, Juba. A UNHCR security and operations team is heading to Yei to assess the situation, following an initial rapid assessment mission on Thursday.

During the attack by two armed intruders, one local guard and one intruder were killed. Six other UNHCR international staff were in the compound at the time of the attack but were uninjured and are safe.

"The UNHCR staff member evacuated an Iraqi national was shot three times in the abdomen during the attack and underwent surgery last night after arrival in Nairobi. He had previously undergone surgery in Juba to stabilise his condition before being medevac-ed to Nairobi," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told journalists at a regular press briefing in Geneva on Friday.

Redmond said a fuller assessment of the wounded staff member's condition was expected later in the day. He is in intensive care but now in a stable condition.

The guard who was also evacuated had sustained a bullet wound to the leg during the attack and requires surgery. He is in a stable condition and his life is not in danger.

A UNHCR security and operations team is heading to Yei to assess the situation on the ground, following on from an initial rapid assessment mission Thursday by a senior UNHCR official, the deputy UN resident coordinator in south Sudan and UN security.

"High Commissioner António Guterres is sending a team from our Emergency and Security Service to south Sudan to assess the situation on the ground. Separately, our Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, Judy Cheng-Hopkins and the director of our Sudan-Chad operations, Jean-Marie Fakhouri will go to Yei," Redmond said.

Non-essential UNHCR staff in Yei are scheduled to travel to Nairobi today for debriefing on the traumatic incident.

High Commissioner Guterres said on Thursday, that the shocking event in Yei just underscored the difficulty UNHCR faced working in south Sudan trying to create a sustainable environment for returning refugees.

UNHCR established a presence in Yei in 2004 to prepare for the return of south Sudanese refugees from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda to the West Equatoria region.

The first repatriation movement from the DRC scheduled for next week has now been suspended while a review of the situation in Yei is being conducted.

Sudan's 21-year civil war in the south came to an end in January 2005 after the signing of peace accords. UNHCR and other agencies had been working in the war-devastated south Sudan before the accords were signed to pave the way for the return of refugees.

In Yei during the last year, the UN refugee agency and its partners have been rehabilitating the hospital and several schools as well as developing income-generating activities for returnees.

There are some 350,000 refugees from South Sudan in neighbouring countries, including 13,300 in DRC, and some 4 million people displaced within Sudan. Some 58,000 refugees are preparing to return home in the first half of this year before the rainy season starts.

Late last week UNHCR launched a US$63.2 million supplementary appeal for the agency's return and reintegration operation in south Sudan, and has so far received US$8 million. The appeal noted that security remained a concern in many parts of the south because of inter-ethnic tensions and rivalries between various armed groups.

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Uganda: Sudanese Refugees Flee Rebel Attacks

On August 5, 2002, some 24,000 Sudanese refugees fled their homes in Achol-Pii camp in northern Uganda after a bloody attack by the Lord's Liberation Army rebel group. More than 60 refugees and many local villagers were killed in the attack.

Fearing further violence, displaced refugees trekked overnight to Lira, from where UNHCR trucked them to Kiryondongo, 100 km to the south-west. Kiryondongo site, a settlement already hosting 13,000 refugees, was temporarily extended to accommodate the Achol-Pii survivors until another site could be prepared.

Arriving families were initially accommodated at an expanded reception centre at Kiryondongo. After being registered, the new arrivals received UNHCR plastic sheeting, an emergency food ration and a 20 x 15-metre plot per family to build their own temporary shelter. UNHCR also distributed blankets and jerry cans. Additional latrines were also dug, new water pumps installed and a new emergency clinic was set up.

Uganda: Sudanese Refugees Flee Rebel Attacks

Harsh life for Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

Some 3,900 Malian refugees are living in Damba camp in northern Burkina Faso. They left their homes in Gossi and Gao in northern Mali to escape fighting between rebel Tuareg movement and the Malian army as well as threats posed by criminal gangs and Islamist groups. Several families have recently arrived in the camp, worried that an attack on Gao in June will spill over to other towns. Life is harsh in the camp and UNHCR urgently needs fresh funds to ensure life-saving assistance for this silent humanitarian crisis.

More than 380,000 Malians have been forced to flee their homes this year. Over 65,000 of them have found refuge in Burkina Faso. And this comes at a time when the countries in the Sahel region are suffering from drought and food shortfalls.

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Fleeing Libya by sea

Thousands of people, mainly sub-Saharan Africans, are taking to the sea in ancient, leaky and overcrowded boats to escape war in their adopted homeland. Libya. The destination of choice is the Italian resort island of Lampedusa, some 600 kilometres north of Libya in the Mediterranean. Many of the passengers arrive traumatized and exhausted from the high seas journey. Others perish en route.

One Ivorian migrant describes life in Tripoli before leaving: "There was no peace. There was rifle fire everywhere. Then NATO started to bomb. We had nothing to eat. Some Libyans started to attack strangers at night, to steal your money, your mobile, whatever you have ... No way to stay there with them. Better to flee."

UNHCR estimates that one in 10 people die during the sea journey from Libya. Those bodies which wash ashore get a simple burial in Lampedusa's cemetery.

May 2011

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