Sudanese refugees face rising challenges as outflow grows

Briefing Notes, 11 May 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 11 May 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Thousands of people have fled Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile states into neighbouring countries in the last month, putting pressure on existing supplies and services.

In western Ethiopia's Assosa region, nearly 2,000 Sudanese refugees have arrived from Blue Nile so far in May. The refugees cite night-time killings, abductions and the burning of their crops as reasons for fleeing. Many are arriving in Ethiopia with heavy luggage and livestock. They tell our staff that more people are on their way to an area already hosting nearly 35,000 mainly Sudanese refugees. UNHCR is making preparations for the possibility of a further influx.

In South Sudan's Unity state, Yida settlement has received more than 3,200 arrivals from the Nuba Mountains so far this month. That's an average of 550 refugees per day nearly double the rate in April and six times that in March. The border settlement's population now stands at nearly 30,000 refugees.

UNHCR has doubled its presence in Yida and accelerated the registration of new arrivals. We continue to see increasing numbers of refugees arriving in a malnourished state due to food shortages in parts of South Kordofan. All new arrivals are immediately registered and provided with food assistance including high-energy biscuits where needed. Partner agencies such as MSF-France and Samaritan's Purse are treating malnourished children urgently and implementing therapeutic and supplemental feeding programs. The World Food Programme has sufficient full-rations of food for the entire camp population in Yida, including the new arrivals. It is also pre-positioning food stocks for the coming rainy season when road access to Yida will be cut off by flooding.

As the rainy season approaches, our staff have been distributing additional relief supplies such as plastic sheets and mosquito nets in the camp. New arrivals and vulnerable refugees such as unaccompanied children, the elderly and disabled continue to benefit from targeted distributions.

Although recent hostilities between South Sudan and Sudan did not directly affect refugee-hosting areas in Unity state, UNHCR remains deeply concerned for the refugees' security due to the proximity of Yida to the disputed border area of Jaw.. Preserving the civilian character of refugee locations remains a core priority in all refugee-hosting areas. We therefore continue to advocate for the refugees in Yida to move to other settlements at a safer distance from the border.

Meanwhile refugees from Sudan's Blue Nile state continue to cross the border into Upper Nile state, and are being relocated to safer areas further inland. This week UNHCR completed individual registration and verification of refugees in Doro and Jammam settlements. The presence of 70,000 refugees was confirmed.

In Jammam, aid agencies are stepping up efforts to increase the water supply and reduce the risk of water-borne diseases such as cholera. Our partners have been trucking and piping water to refugee locations and treating surface water where available.

To reduce demands on limited water sources, UNHCR this week started relocating the first of 15,000 refugees from Jammam to Doro I and II camps. We will also continue drilling efforts with partners to provide water in Jammam for the remaining refugees as well as local communities.

Efforts are underway to transport a much larger drilling rig than those already in place, to explore deeper water sources. Transporting such heavy duty equipment to this remote part of the country is a major logistical challenge.

In the meantime, medical and other humanitarian actors have drawn up contingency plans to respond to any eventual outbreak of disease. They have pre-positioned medical supplies and established treatment units.

In total, more than 100,000 Sudanese refugees have fled into South Sudan since the middle of last year. UNHCR has so far received 31 per cent of the US$145 million we need to care for the Sudanese refugees in South Sudan and Ethiopia. More contributions are urgently needed as we accelerate preparation for the camps before access is cut off by rains.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In South Sudan: Teresa Ongaro, on mobile +211 927 770 040

  • In Ethiopia: Kisut Gebre Egziabher,op mobile +251 911 208 901

  • In Nairobi, UNHCR Regional Support Hub: Vivian Tan, +254 735 337 608

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