With rainy season looming, UNHCR races to provide for displaced South Sudanese

Briefing Notes, 29 April 2014

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Fatoumata Lejeune to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 29 April 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

With the rainy season imminent in East Africa UNHCR is racing to supply essential relief for many of the more than one million people displaced by the fighting in South Sudan over the last four months.

Within South Sudan, UNHCR is concerned about terrified South Sudanese civilians who have been left without basic household items because they have been forced to flee violence, often more than once. This leaves them exposed to the elements without the ability to keep warm, cook or maintain basic standards of hygiene.

In total, 923,000 South Sudanese are displaced within their own country. These people are spread across some 174 spontaneous and organized sites, with the highest increase having been in Upper Nile state. More than 293,000 people have become refugees in neighbouring countries since last December. Some 4.9 million people need humanitarian assistance.

Today, UNHCR is airlifting more relief supplies from Dubai directly to Juba, for some 100,000 displaced people. The blankets, sleeping mats, water buckets and other relief items will be distributed mainly in Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei states. Once the rainy season begins in earnest in a few weeks, roads in these areas will become impassable for weeks on end.

Within South Sudan, heavy fighting broke out in the northern parts of Upper Nile State on 23 April, especially in Renk County, and unconfirmed reports suggest that as many as 40,000 people may be fleeing fighting and heading towards Melut, close to Maban County. Tension is also high in Bor town in Jonglei State, with more people reported to be moving out of town. Fighting has also caused displacement in Duk and Twic East Counties.

Across the border in Sudan, our priority is to relocate some 23,000 South Sudanese in White Nile State away from the site where they now are staying. The site, called Kilo 10, will become inaccessible very soon. It has already begun raining, but the heaviest rains usually begin in May. UN agencies, the Sudanese Red Crescent and government of Sudan last week conducted a one-day assessment mission to two relocation sites proposed by authorities. The sites both appear suitable, and host communities did not express any objections to having refugees move there. Sudan has taken in more than 65,000 South Sudanese since fighting broke out on 15 December last year.

Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, UNHCR and its partners are expanding accommodation for nearly 100,000 refugees who have arrived in the Gambella region in the west of the country. We have finished flying in 4,000 emergency family tents and have already set up 2,000 of them at Leitchuor Camp. Another 1,500 are being sent to Kule Camp. The remainder will be kept in stock for when we need them.

We have also begun demarcating and clearing land for a fifth camp near Kule. It is expected to open in the beginning of May and take in 25,000 refugees with an eventual capacity of 30,000.

Also in the Gambella area, UNHCR and its partners are expanding registration and reception. A new registration centre at Burubiey, on the border with South Sudan's Jonglei State, will cut the time refugees have to travel to get registered by five days if they walk or 15 hours if they take a boat. The centre is run by UNHCR and the Ethiopian government's Administration of Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA).

At another border point, Pagak, bordering South Sudan's Upper Nile state, joint registration has also resumed after an interruption of more than two weeks to move some 700 Ethiopian citizens who were trying to register as refugees in order to get aid.

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