UNHCR worry over civilians displaced by fighting in South Sudan's Jonglei

Briefing Notes, 11 June 2013

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 11 June 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The UN refugee agency is alarmed by the fighting that has been on-going in Jonglei State, South Sudan since March between government troops and armed groups. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced. In Pibor County in particular, we have seen increasing tension and serious allegations of a break-down in law and order, evidenced among other things by indiscriminate abuses and looting of civilian property. Most of Pibor County's 148,000 people are affected and many have been displaced more than once by the hostilities. Many people have fled into the bush, into areas that are hard to reach.

The security constraints have made it difficult for us to monitor the situation and to respond to humanitarian needs. Finding and reaching people affected by fighting in Jonglei is a major concern. When we get access, we have been conducting border monitoring missions to assess population movements and we are sharing this information with neighbouring countries.

Many civilians are walking long distances to find sanctuary in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.

In the first five months of this year, we registered 5,397 refugees from Jonglei State at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. These numbers are significant: this is approaching the total that arrived there in all of last year and is more than double the number who arrived in 2011 or 2010.

In Uganda, some 2,700 refugees from Jonglei State have arrived since the beginning of the year, averaging about 527 per month.

The recent fighting in Pibor has resulted in an influx into Ethiopia, but on a smaller scale than some recent reports have suggested. Around 16,000 people arrived mainly between February 2012 and February 2013 before the most recent fighting. UNHCR assessment teams have just returned from the border inside Ethiopia where they established the arrival of 2,178 refugees between 7 May and 7 June. Some new arrivals reported that more people were on their way to Ethiopia from the Nyalongoro, Kaiwa and Niate areas of South Sudan.

In South Sudan, we are working both in Jonglei State and at the national level to advocate for better protection of displaced people. As part of the humanitarian community, we are engaging with the government, UNMISS (the United Nations Mission in South Sudan), key members of the diplomatic community and other stakeholders at different levels to ensure protection of civilians and improved humanitarian access.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Nairobi: Kitty McKinsey on mobile +254 735 337 608
  • In Geneva: Fati Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483
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