70,000 South Sudanese flee fighting since May truce

Briefing Notes, 27 May 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 27 May 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In South Sudan, the number of people fleeing fighting continues to rise almost three weeks on from a truce agreement.

Since the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement on 9 May in Addis Ababa, the number of internally displaced people has grown by 46,000 people to 1,005,096. Over the same period, the number of South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda has swollen by over 20,000 to 370,000 people.

South Sudan has been mired in civil conflict for over six months, aggravating an already dire humanitarian situation. The truce signed earlier this month was the second so far.

Ethiopia currently hosts the largest South Sudanese refugee population at 131,051 people, mostly women and children. Recent arrivals say they have fled fighting in neighbouring Jonglei and Upper Nile states, particularly the area around Mathiang in Longechuk county of Upper Nile State. Those from other areas said they feared imminent attacks or food insecurity.

To accommodate the refugees, UNHCR and the Ethiopian authorities have opened three new camps this year, two of which (Leitchuor and Kule I) have a combined population of 95,085 refugees and are already full. The third camp, Kule II which we opened on May 17, is already hosting 5,997 refugees. With 16,500 more refugees at the border waiting to be relocated there, and an average of 1,000 South Sudanese arriving daily in Ethiopia, we have already started looking for additional land for a fourth camp.

With the conflict in South Sudan having put four million people at risk of acute food insecurity, UNHCR is concerned at the potential for further displacement internally and into neighbouring countries over the coming weeks. South Sudan is also host to some 320,000 refugees from Sudan. Among these, we are also worried about food shortages, particularly those in the Maban area of Upper Nile.

Currently across South Sudan many people are unable to farm, to access their normal food sources, or to migrate with their livestock. An added challenge for those hoping to flee areas of fighting is that roads and river crossings are becoming impassable because of the rainy season.

UNHCR thanks donors for the $600 million pledged last week in Oslo towards UN humanitarian operations aimed at alleviating the plight of forcibly displaced South Sudanese. This includes operations inside South Sudan, as well as the four countries hosting South Sudanese refugees.

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