South Sudan crisis generates more refugees for neighbouring countries

Briefing Notes, 14 January 2014

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 14 January 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

More South Sudanese civilians are deserting their homes and crossing into neighbouring Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, as well as volatile regions of Sudan to escape from ongoing violence.

78,000 people have now fled to neighbouring countries since mid-December. More than half have headed for Uganda's West Nile region straddling South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In all, 42,654 mostly women and children, from Nimule in South Sudan, are now in the Ugandan districts of Arua, Adjumani and Kiryandongo. According to colleagues, many men are taking their families to the Ugandan border and leaving them there before returning back to their country. From the refugees we have spoken to we are hearing eye-witness accounts of killings, houses been burnt and shooting.

The largest concentration of people currently is at the Dzaipi transit center in Adjumani District, by the border with Nimule, where there are 32,505 refugees. The center was initially designed to only host 400 people, so most of those there are having to sleep in the open with their children and complaining of cold at night. As well as shelter, they need clean water, food, and basic household goods. As more people continue to arrive daily at Dzaipi we are working with the Ugandan authorities to set up additional camps

Ethiopia is also seeing an upsurge in arrivals. 18,616 South Sudanese have crossed into the Akobo area from the Jonglei region and we are beefing up our staff presence to better monitor new arrivals and respond to their needs.

Kenya has also seen 6,778 arrivals from Jonglei state. UNHCR is concerned by the large presence of children among them and we are planning a joint assessment mission with UNICEF to find out more about their situation, and the needs including family reunification or foster care for those who are separated or unaccompanied.

In Sudan, available estimates are that 10,000 have crossed into West and South Kordofan, two states that are themselves volatile. The majority are nomads and, so far, we have not been able to verify exact numbers due to lack of access. However, the Government of Sudan says that, so far, only 1,371 of the new arrivals are South Sudanese refugees. UNHCR, WFP and other partners are providing assistance to these people via local partners, as well as to some of the nomads who are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

With fighting still being reported in parts of South Sudan-mainly in the states of Jonglei and Upper Nile and the slow progress in the political talks in Addis Ababa, we are anticipating further displacement both within and beyond the borders of South Sudan. Internal displacement figures are now at 355,000, up from 200,000 last week. The added displacement is being fuelled by the fighting itself as well as by fear of it, combined with deteriorating living conditions, including a lack of food in some markets.

Despite the challenges UNHCR continues to provide assistance to 230,000 refugees in 10 camps in South Sudan. We are planning to begin food distribution tomorrow for some 77,000 Sudanese refugees in the camps of Yida and Ajuong Thok in Unity State, with the support of the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, which has agreed to redeploy troops to secure Yida.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In South Sudan (on mission) Kisut Gebre Egziabher on mobile. +211 928 067 699
  • In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • Fatoumata Lejeune on mobile +41 79 249 34 83
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Displacement in South Sudan: A Camp Within a Camp

In the three weeks since South Sudan erupted in violence, an estimated 200,000 South Sudanese have found themselves displaced within their own country. Some 57,000 have sought sanctuary at bases of UN peace-keepers across the country. These photos by UNHCR's Senior Regional Public Information Officer Kitty McKinsey give a glimpse of the daily life of the 14,000 displaced people inside the UN compound known locally as Tong Ping, near the airport in Juba, South Sudan's capital. Relief agencies, including UNHCR, are rallying to bring shelter, blankets and other aid items, but in the first days, displaced people had to fend for themselves. The compounds have taken on all the trappings of small towns, with markets, kiosks, garbage collection and public bathing facilities. Amazingly, children still manage to smile and organize their own games with the simplest of materials.

Displacement in South Sudan: A Camp Within a Camp

Emergency food distribution in South Sudan's Jonglei state

Humanitarian organizations in South Sudan are working to deliver emergency assistance to some of the tens of thousands of people displaced by armed conflict in Jonglei state. Most of those uprooted have fled into the bush or have walked for days to reach villages away from the fighting. Others have journeyed even greater distances to find sanctuary in the neighbouring countries of Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. Gaining access to those affected in an insecure and isolated area has been a significant challenge for aid workers. Since mid-July, an airlift has been providing food supplies to families living in two previously inaccessible villages and where humanitarian agencies have established temporary bases. As part of the "cluster approach" to humanitarian emergencies, which brings together partners working in the same response sector, UNHCR is leading the protection cluster to ensure the needs of vulnerable individuals among the displaced are addressed.

Emergency food distribution in South Sudan's Jonglei state

Thousands of refugees moved before the rains hit South Sudan

Since the beginning of May, an operation has been under way in South Sudan to move more than 18,000 Sudanese refugees to a newly built camp. Six days a week, around 500 people are transported from the Jamam camp in Upper Nile state to a recently constructed site called Kaya. South Sudan's long and intense rainy season will soon begin in earnest and the operation will move the refugees from a location prone to severe flooding to one designed to remain accessible and functional during the downpours. The rains leave large areas of the country cut off by flood waters for months. Residents of Jamam are assisted to move their household belongings and are allotted a plot of land on arrival in Kaya, where UNHCR partners have established schools and medical facilities. Newly arrived refugees from Sudan are also brought to Kaya, where they are provided with relief items and shelter. UNHCR's Tim Irwin was there with his camera.

Thousands of refugees moved before the rains hit South Sudan

South Sudan: Food Security Play video

South Sudan: Food Security

Jacob is plowing 20 kilometers far from his own home town, Bor, after having to abandon it due to the ongoing fighting in South Sudan. Now in Mingkaman camp,as a displaced person, this land he plows is all he has after losing farm and cattle back home
South Sudan: Flooding Disaster Play video

South Sudan: Flooding Disaster

Nearly 100,000 people are living in cramped, overcrowded camps in Mingkaman, in Rivers State, South Sudan. Whenever it rains, tents become flooded causing already fragile sanitation conditions to worsen.
South Sudan: Rainy SeasonPlay video

South Sudan: Rainy Season

As the rainy season approaches, the humanitarian situation in South Sudan remains critical. The rains will make it more difficult to bring in aid and if conflict continues, half of South Sudan's 12 million people could be in danger of starvation by the end of this year.