UNHCR - more camps for South Sudanese refugee population in East Africa

Briefing Notes, 17 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 17 January 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

As more South Sudanese refugees flee into neighbouring countries, UNHCR teams are working to establish a number of new camps and expand existing ones in neighbouring Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Since mid-December, when conflict erupted in South Sudan, over 86,000 South Sudanese have crossed into neighbouring countries. With people still arriving at a rate of around 1000 a day we are looking at the prospect of refugee numbers exceeding 100,000 by end January.

Inside South Sudan, people are reported to have moved to border areas, from where they can cross to neighbouring countries should the situation further deteriorate. To the south of Juba, just across the border from Uganda at Nimule there are now thousands of people. Others are reported in areas bordering Sudan and its neighbouring regions of East Darfur, South and West Kordofan.

According to government data there are now 46,579 South Sudanese refugees in Uganda. Ethiopia has so far received 20,624, and Kenya at least 8,900. An estimated 10,000 people have also crossed into Sudan's South and West Kordofan states, which are themselves facing armed violence. The government of Sudan has registered 1,371 of them as refugees while the rest are mostly nomads.

In Uganda, there is still serious overcrowding at the Dzaipi transit centre in Adjumani District in the country's north. People are contending with issues relating to hygiene, food and lack of water. Although some 10,000 people have so far been moved to the nearby Nyumanzi settlement Dzaipi, designed for 400 people, is still hosting over 20,000 refugees.

UNHCR is racing to transfer around 500 families daily to decongest Dzaipi transit center as more refugees arrive. We are meanwhile rehabilitating former sites in Nyumanzi and nearby at Baratuku where a primary school and health centre need to be upgraded.

Water is the most urgent of the challenges, with some of the recently moved refugees reporting that a wait of up to 4 days to get water while others are sleeping in line at water pumps with their jerry cans. Shelter and health are also problematic, with many people sleeping in the open.

Most of the newly arriving South Sudanese are under 18 years of age and many of them have already been asking for secondary and tertiary education opportunities. For children without close family members UNHCR is providing separate shelter and identifying foster caretakers within the community, but further support is still needed.

UNHCR is urging partners and other humanitarian organizations to assist in building up these settlements. In the meantime, we have created a second transit centre in the same area, with a capacity for 4,000 people, and where incoming refugees are now being now being taken.

All refugees relocated to the settlements around Adjumani are given basic relief items including blankets, mats, cooking equipment, jerry cans and materials to construct houses. They are also given small plots of land to erect their houses.

In Ethiopia and Kenya, where new camp development is also taking place, refugees are facing similar challenges in terms of clean water, health, sanitation, shelter and education. In Kenya in particular, we are seeing many children separated from their parents.

By setting up new camps and expanding existing ones in both countries, we will be in a better position to address the news of the growing refugee population. UNHCR currently needs a total of $US88 million to respond to the humanitarian crisis inside South Sudan as well as in the surrounding region.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Nairobi: Kitty McKinsey (Regional) on mobile +254 735 337 608
  • In Juba (on mission): Kisut Gebreegziabher on mobile. +211 928 067 699
  • In Mbarara, Lucy Beck on mobile +256 77 271 013
  • In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • In Geneva, Fatoumata Lejeune on mobile +41 79 249 34 83
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South Sudan Crisis: Urgent Appeal

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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.