Aerial attacks stoke fears among refugees in Yida, South Sudan

Briefing Notes, 11 April 2014

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 11 April 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is deeply concerned about the safety of refugees and aid workers in Yida, South Sudan, after unidentified aircraft circled over the settlement several times on 9 April. The sighting raised fears that the refugee settlement may soon come under direct or indirect military attack.

The incident came just two days after the aerial bombardment of Neem, a community 26 kilometres north of Yida and close to the disputed border area of Jau. Local authorities reported that on 7 April a suspected military aircraft dropped more than five bombs over Neem, which is on the road that refugees use when coming from the war-torn Nuba Mountains in Sudan. However, according to our information, refugees have not been directly affected this week's attack.

Yida, a spontaneous settlement sheltering 70,000 Sudanese refugees, has come under aerial attack before. In November 2011, two bombs fell within the camp, including one close to a school for refugee children. Yida is located in the north of Unity State, close to the highly militarized Jau corridor.

With the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, Pariang County where Yida is located has seen increased militarization by regular and irregular armed groups. Shifting conflict lines leave refugees exposed to serious protection risks, including gender-based violence.

For more than two years, UNHCR and the South Sudan Commission for Refugee Affairs have been advocating for the relocation of refugees to safer areas inside South Sudan. National authorities are aware of the protection concerns, and agree with UNHCR and NGOs that the civilian character of the camp cannot be maintained in Yida.

Nevertheless, refugee leaders have been reluctant to move, citing proximity to their homeland as well as similarity in soil composition, vegetation and other topographical features.

In March last year, a model refugee settlement was established in Ajuong Thok, further from the disputed border zone, and the Government of South Sudan decreed that no new arrivals should be registered in Yida. Donor support enabled the construction of primary and secondary schools as an incentive for refugees to relocate voluntarily.

However, refugees in Yida have been slow to accept the offer. While the population of Ajuong Thok crossed the 10,000 mark in March, most residents are new arrivals from South Kordofan state in Sudan, where there have been reports of increased bombardment in Nuba Mountains and school closures due to insecurity.

Since January, UNHCR and its partners have relocated an average of 300 new arrivals per week to Ajuong Thok. Increasing numbers of refugees registered in Yida (up to 100 per week) are signing up for relocation.

South Sudan is now hosting more than 540,000 refugees, mostly in Unity and Upper Nile states. These areas, together with Jonglei state, are the ones worst affected by violence and forced displacement in the war in South Sudan are also hosting over 800,000 internally displaced persons.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Juba, South Sudan: Teresa Ongaro, mobile: +211 927 770 040
  • In Geneva, Fatoumata Lejeune on mobile +41 79 249 34 83
• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

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

Down Through the Generations, Conflict Forces Flight in South Sudan

In what is now South Sudan, families have been fleeing fighting for generations since conflict first erupted there in 1955. The Sudan War ended in 1972, then flared up again in 1983 and dragged on for 22 years to the peace deal in 2005 that led to the south's independence from Sudan in 2011.

But the respite was shortlived. One year ago, fresh conflict broke out between government and opposition supporters in the world's newest country, forcing 1.9 million people in the nation of 11 million from their homes. Most - 1.4 million - ended up somewhere else within South Sudan. Now older people live in stick-and-tarpaulin huts with their children, and their children's children, all three generations - sometimes four - far from home due to yet more war.

The largest settlement for such families is near the town of Mingkaman in South Sudan's Lakes state, close to the central city of Bor. More than 100,000 internally displaced people live in the settlement, located a few hours boat ride up the Nile from the capital, Juba. Photographer Andrew McConnell recently visited Mingkaman to follow the daily life of six families and find out how the wars have affected them.

Down Through the Generations, Conflict Forces Flight in South Sudan

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

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

Uganda: A Father's TroublesPlay video

Uganda: A Father's Troubles

Forty-five-year-old Gabriel fled South Sudan with his wife and children to find safety in the UN compound in Bor. But, in April 2014, his wife was killed when an armed mob forced their way in, and now he is a single father to five children, seeking a better life in Uganda.