Renewed fighting drives hundreds of Sudanese refugees across border

Briefing Notes, 25 September 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 25 September 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Air and ground attacks in Sudan's Southern Kordofan state are causing a renewed influx to South Sudan of about 100 refugees a day. Arriving in the border town of Yida, in Unity State, refugees are in poor health and without any belongings.

Some individuals tell us they have come to set up a shelter in Yida Camp and then will return to Sudan to retrieve their families. They said they were fleeing not only the terror of the bombings and the presence of ground troops, but also an acute lack of food.

We anticipate an increased influx into Yida as the rains subside and if fighting further escalates in Southern Kordofan. As arrivals pick up, there could be up to 80,000 refugees by the end of the year.

The remote Yida camp currently hosts 64,229 refugees, so additional sites for new arrivals will be required to avoid congestion and associated health risks.

As tension is building up again in border areas, we remain extremely concerned about the safety of the refugees in Yida settlement which is located in close proximity to the border. The presence of a refugee settlement in highly militarized border areas close to a conflict zone hampers efforts to preserve the civilian and humanitarian character of asylum. The safety of the refugees in this location cannot be guaranteed. UNHCR continues to work with the refugee community to advocate for the relocation of the settlement to a safer location as soon as roads re-open.

UNHCR has been supporting South Sudanese authorities in their efforts to ensure there are no arms or combatants in the camp and that the practice of recruitment is prevented. Recently, however, a search for weapons in the settlement has led to incidents of arbitrary detention and abuse of refugees. Together with our partners, we have been monitoring the situation and intervening to secure the release of those detained.

Meanwhile in South Sudan's Upper Nile state, we fear that main roads leading to camps hosting some 105,000 refugees could be cut off by heavy rains and flooding.

At a time where intensive health hygiene and nutrition campaigns initiated in July start to show positive impact, humanitarian agencies are faced with new challenges. As mortality rates were brought back below emergency thresholds in all camps and malnutrition rates are improving sharply, an outbreak of hepatitis E is a cause of serious concern and needs to be contained quickly.

Many roads are already flooded and may soon become impassible. For example, there are areas along the main supply routes where stretches of up to three kilometers are under 50 cm of water.

So far, the local population in the town of Bunj has been the most affected and rapid relief interventions are being put in place. We are particularly concerned about refugees in Doro camp, adjacent to Bunj town where some 75 families have been so far affected by the flood in the past few days. They have been relocated within the camps to dry areas, and targeted assistance has been provided such as blankets to children under the age of 5. The other camps of Jammam, Yusuf Batil and Gendrassa are not affected at the moment.

Over the weekend, humanitarian workers delivered 14 tons of much needed nutrition commodities to Doro camp using tractors, instead of trucks. Doro is one of four camps in Upper Nile, a region largely affected by seasonal rains and which may sustain further environmental damage should floodwaters coming from Ethiopian highlands reach South Sudan this year.

While the end of the rainy season in about six weeks will lead to improved access to and conditions in the refugee settlements, UNHCR and partners also anticipate new refugee influxes from Blue Nile state of Sudan. It is also feared that will arrive in a more advance state of malnutrition as conditions across the border worsen. This again will represent a major challenge for the humanitarian community.

South Sudan currently hosts some 201,000 refugees, more than 170,000 reside in Unity and Upper Niles states.

In South Sudan, UNHCR needs US$186 million to assist the Sudanese refugees fleeing from South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. We have so far received US$71 million, or 38 percent of our requirements, mostly from governments. We are also appealing for private donor support to the South Sudan emergency.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Yida, Kathryn Mahoney on thuraya +88216 51076494
  • In Geneva, Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483



UNHCR country pages

South Sudan Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Donate now and help to provide emergency aid to tens of thousands of people fleeing South Sudan to escape violence.

Donate to this crisis

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Bonga camp is located in the troubled Gambella region of western Ethiopia. But it remains untouched by the ethnic conflicts that have torn nearby Gambella town and Fugnido camp in the last year.

For Bonga's 17,000 Sudanese refugees, life goes on despite rumblings in the region. Refugee children continue with school and play while their parents make ends meet by supplementing UNHCR assistance with self-reliance projects.

Cultural life is not forgotten, with tribal ceremonies by the Uduk majority. Other ethnic communities – Shuluks, Nubas and Equatorians – are welcome too, judging by how well hundreds of newcomers have settled in after their transfer from Fugnido camp in late 2002.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote

Ahead of South Sudan's landmark January 9, 2011 referendum on independence, tens of thousands of southern Sudanese in the North packed their belongings and made the long trek south. UNHCR set up way stations at key points along the route to provide food and shelter to the travellers during their arduous journey. Several reports of rapes and attacks on travellers reinforced the need for these reception centres, where women, children and people living with disabilities can spend the night. UNHCR has made contingency plans in the event of mass displacement after the vote, including the stockpiling of shelter and basic provisions for up to 50,000 people.

Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote

South Sudan: Preparing for Long-Awaited Returns

The signing of a peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the army of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement on 9 January, 2005, ended 21 years of civil war and signaled a new era for southern Sudan. For some 4.5 million uprooted Sudanese – 500,000 refugees and 4 million internally displaced people – it means a chance to finally return home.

In preparation, UNHCR and partner agencies have undertaken, in various areas of South Sudan, the enormous task of starting to build some basic infrastructure and services which either were destroyed during the war or simply had never existed. Alongside other UN agencies and NGOs, UNHCR is also putting into place a wide range of programmes to help returnees re-establish their lives.

These programs include road construction, the building of schools and health facilities, as well as developing small income generation programmes to promote self-reliance.

South Sudan: Preparing for Long-Awaited Returns

South Sudan: A Long Walk in Search of Safety Play video

South Sudan: A Long Walk in Search of Safety

Years of fighting between Sudan and rebel forces have sent more than 240,000 people fleeing to neighbouring South Sudan, a country embroiled in its own conflict. After weeks on foot, Amal Bakith and her five children are settling in at Ajoung Thok refugee camp where they receive food, shelter, access to education and land.
South Sudan: Four Years On from IndependencePlay video

South Sudan: Four Years On from Independence

In 2011 the people of South Sudan celebrated their independence. Four years later, the world's newest nation is one of the world's worst humanitarian situations. In December 2013, conflict erupted displacing 2 million people including more than 600,000 refugees. South Sudanese has fled to Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan. The crisis has especially impacted the next generation of South Sudanese, 70% of those displaced are children.
South Sudan Crisis: One Year OnPlay video

South Sudan Crisis: One Year On