South Sudan seeing growing refugee influx from Southern Kordofan

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

Over eight thousand civilians have fled into the newly independent Republic of South Sudan to escape fighting in the state of Southern Kordofan in neighbouring Sudan.

The new arrivals are mostly refugees from the Nuba Mountains region of central Sudan, who began trickling into South Sudan in July following heavy fighting and air strikes. Since last week however, there has been a surge in arrivals with up to 500 people a day from 100 people a day in August.

These are the first refugees to reach post-independence South Sudan and we expect more arrivals amid persistent reports of aerial bombing in Southern Kordofan. New arrivals also include some South Sudanese who had been living in Southern Kordofan State before being compelled to return because of the violence.

Most of the displaced walked for days to reach safety in South Sudan's Unity State, which shares a border with the troubled regions of Abyei and Southern Kordofan States.

These people are currently scattered in remote northern areas of Unity State where a lack of airstrips and roads is severely limiting humanitarian access. To reach them, aid agencies are using a small number of quad bikes - one of the few means of traveling in this area. These bikes, although well-suited for the terrain, can bring in only limited numbers of staff and goods at a time. WFP supplied-food had to be airdropped recently to the region.

UNHCR has conducted basic registration at the border and identified the most vulnerable among the new arrivals for individual follow-up. We are supporting a mobile clinic to address the health needs, and our partners have been working on improving water and sanitation facilities and providing treatment for the severely malnourished. Meanwhile we are currently developing a site to relocate the refugees away from the border. The work includes building health, school, and clean water and sanitation facilities.

Transporting the thousands of displaced to the site will be difficult because of the absence of or extremely bad quality of the roads. The authorities of Unity State have started doing urgent repairs to open up roads to cars and trucks again. In the interim however, most of the displaced will have to trek to the new site on foot. Specific transport arrangements will be made for the most vulnerable to spare them the harsh journey.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, +41 79 249 3483