South Sudan fighting sees 1000s fleeing into DRCongo

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 4 December 2015, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Recent fighting between local groups (known as the "Arrow Boys") and the South Sudanese army in the Western Equatoria region of South Sudan has displaced over 4,000 people into a remote region of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Two UNHCR teams have so far this week registered 3,464 newly arrived refugees in areas near the border in DRC's Dungu Territory. They also report that 1,206 Congolese refugees, previously in South Sudan, have fled to the same area as a result of the fighting. Ezo settlement in South Sudan, which was originally home to nearly 3,300 Congolese refugees, is now virtually empty, with the remaining refugee families having fled to nearby fields.

Registration in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is ongoing in areas along the border and more arrivals are being reported. UNHCR's nearest office is some 400 kilometres away in Bunia, and it took our teams several days to reach the localities where refugees are.

Ninety per cent of the South Sudanese refugees are women and children. Some had walked for three days, carrying only their most important belongings. Most men have stayed behind in South Sudan.

While some refugees have been sleeping in the open or in abandoned huts without roofing, most are being sheltered by local families, among them former Sudanese refugees from earlier conflicts. We have distributed plastic sheeting for 409 people.

Refugees say their most urgent needs are shelter, food and medical care. The nearest hospital is about 80 kilometres away. Further assessments will help determine the support needed. Many say that will not return to South Sudan if there is no peace.

South Sudan's conflict erupted in Juba two years ago this month. It has so far forced 2.3 million people to flee their homes, 650,000 of these across borders as refugees and 1.65 million displaced inside the country. Most of the refugees are in Ethiopia (226,000), Sudan (198,000), Uganda (172,000) and Kenya (49,000). Even with these conditions, South Sudan continues to host 265,701 refugees from the South Kordofan and Blue Nile areas of neighbouring Sudan.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Juba, Rocco Nuri on mobile +211 927 725 535
  • In Kinshasa, Andreas Kirchhof on mobile +243 81 700 9484
  • In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • In Geneva, Karin de Gruijl on mobile +41 79 255 9213