Fresh fighting in South Sudan displaces up to 26,000 in Malakal area

Fresh fighting in South Sudan displaces up to 26,000 in Malakal area

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andreas Needham to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR fears that up to 26,000 people may have been displaced by fighting that broke out on Wednesday (February 17) evening between ethnic Dinka and Shilluk at a site for internally displaced people in Malakal, South Sudan.

Sudan's People Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers yesterday reportedly entered the protection of civilians (POC) site, which was hosting 48,000 internally displaced people (IDP). Humanitarian partners on the ground reported shooting, looting of properties and burning of houses. UNHCR staff said civilians fled carrying whatever they could and that vulnerable people were left unattended. Many families were separated in the rush to flee.

Preliminary information indicates 18 people were killed and more than 90 wounded. A number of civilians remain in very critical conditions. Two clinics, run by IOM and International Medical Corps (IMC), were looted. Some 4,000 displaced Dinka fled to Malakal town, while tens of thousands of Nuer and Shilluk IDPs sought refuge at the UNMISS (UN Mission in South Sudan) base in Malakal.

We have received reports that some 26,000 internally displaced people have fled into the UNMISS base, but we are unable to confirm the number given the fluidity of the situation. According to government sources, IDPs who fled to Malakal town have found safety in churches and schools. Médecins Sans Frontières confirmed that 18 people have been killed, including two of their staff.

Fire has heavily damaged the POC site. Food, shelter and water are the priority needs now and children and the elderly are among the most affected. Fighting has subsided since last night, but sporadic gunshots were heard this morning. UNHCR is meeting with partners this morning to organize an assessment of displaced people sheltering in the UNMISS base and see how to respond to their needs.

UN peacekeepers appear to have taken control of the POC site and the SPLA soldiers are reported to have left the camp. UNHCR has 16 staff on the ground, including four international staff, and all are accounted for.

Humanitarian partners installed water points for the civilians displaced inside the UNMISS base. Health partners have mobilized to take care of the wounded, including IMC, MSF, ICRC, WHO and IOM. A number of IDPs in critical conditions were medically evacuated to Kodok and Juba. ICRC sent a team to Kodok to offer medical evacuation and surgical support.

Demonstrations were held yesterday at POC sites in the South Sudan capital, Juba, with hundreds of IDPs protesting in solidarity with their communities in Malakal. UNHCR is one of the many partners of the humanitarian response to the developing situation.

Media Contacts:

  • In Juba, Rocco Nuri on +211 927 725 535 or
  • In Juba, Richard Ruati on +211 927 725 515 or
  • In Geneva, Andreas Needham on +41 79 217 3140 or