Some 20,000 Sudanese refugees converge at South Sudan border

Briefing Notes, 1 June 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 1 June 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

An estimated 20,000 refugees have amassed on the South Sudan border after fleeing conflict and depletion of their food stocks in Sudan's Blue Nile state over the last few weeks. Thousands have been moved to a new camp as UNHCR and its partners race against time and bad weather to relocate the rest while providing emergency aid.

Many of the new arrivals in the Elfoj border area say they fled because of the ongoing bombing and ground fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North in Blue Nile. As a result of the fighting, villagers have limited access to food and the fields for farming. A number of refugees have been taken to humanitarian run hospitals in poor health after surviving on tree leaves for some time. Refugees interviewed by UNHCR staff at Elfoj report that up to 40,000 more people could be en route to South Sudan.

UNHCR is concerned about the refugees' safety in Elfoj due to their proximity to the volatile border. Since 19 May, we have bussed and trucked several thousand of them to our new camp, Yusuf Batil. The remainder have been relocated some 30 kilometres from Elfoj to a transit site called Rum, where we provide emergency assistance before onward travel to Yusuf Batil. The most vulnerable refugees have been taken by tractor-pulled trailers as road conditions deteriorate in the rainy season in the border area.

In Rum, UNHCR and the World Food Programme are distributing 10-day emergency food rations for 20,000 refugees. UNHCR trucks water in Rum when needed to complement a system MSF has set up to treat available water on site. MSF is organizing a daily mobile clinic. Those in need of medical care are transported to the clinic in Jammam refugee camp.

Currently we are relocating refugees three times a week from Rum to Yusuf Batil camp, about 1,000 at a time based on the capacity of services such as shelter and water in the receiving camp. The first rains and muddy roads are slowing down the movements. Some groups are moving on their own from the border to join their communities in Doro and Jammam camps.

The current refugee influx is putting tremendous strains on limited resources in this remote area of South Sudan. Doro camp is running out of space, with more than 37,000 refugees already living there. Jammam camp is still grappling with a lack of water despite continuing efforts to drill deeper into the ground. We are in the process of relocating 15,000 refugees from Jammam to Doro and Batil to ease congestion and the pressure on limited water supplies in Jammam.

The current influx brings the total number of Sudanese refugees in Upper Nile to about 100,000. To the west, Unity state is hosting another 38,000 refugees from Sudan's South Kordofan state.

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