Switzerland: About 60,000 flee South Sudan’s latest violence

Geneva, Switzerland (PANA) - Refugee flows from South Sudan into Uganda have doubled in the past 10 days, bringing the total to more than 52,000 who have entered the country since violence escalated in the country three weeks ago, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said on Tuesday.    

UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told a press briefing in Geneva that Kenya had reported the arrival of 1,000 refugees in the same period, while 7,000 had fled to Sudan.  

"In total, 60,000 people have fled the country since violence broke out in Juba last month, bringing the overall number of South Sudanese refugees in neighboring countries since December 2013 to nearly 900,000," she said.

The UN refugee agency said in a statement that refugees reported that armed groups operating on roads to Uganda were preventing people from fleeing South Sudan. "New arrivals from Yei say they received letters warning them to evacuate the town in anticipation of conflict between rebel and government forces."

The latest violence started early last month when troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar clashed in Juba. The fighting is threatening to tear up the peace agreement that was signed in August 2015.

Fleming said refugees had also reported that armed groups operating across different parts of South Sudan were looting villages, murdering civilians and forcibly recruiting young men and boys into their ranks.

She said more than 85 per cent of the refugees arriving in Uganda were women and children under the age of 18 years, adding that many took advantage of the opportunity to flee alongside Ugandan military convoys evacuating Ugandan nationals.

UNHCR said both Kenya and Uganda were reporting rising cases of severe malnutrition, particularly among very young children. "Those found to be suffering are being placed on food nourishment programmes to bring them back to health."

Fleming said in South Sudan, where aid agencies were concerned about inability to provide urgent help to needy populations, the general collapse in the protection of civilians was also affecting many of the 250,000 refugees, mainly from Sudan, Ethiopia, and the DR Congo.  

She said since last month's outbreak of fighting in Juba, UNHCR's access to 2,000 Ethiopian refugees living in Gorom camp, near the capital, had been severely curtailed, due to insecurity on the road and militarization of the area surrounding the camp, leaving them extremely vulnerable.

"The camp is surrounded by military barracks; movements of soldiers through the camp and sporadic gunfire have still been reported by refugees."

Fleming said in the Maban refugee camps in Upper Nile state, three Public Health Care units were rendered temporarily nonfunctional after technical staff were stranded in Juba. However, refugees were attended to other in some of the existing health facilities in the respective camps.

"UNHCR is reminding all parties to the conflict in South Sudan of fundamental human rights to seek asylum and urging them to ensure that civilians are provided with unhindered access to safety as the number of refugees crosses a worrying milestone," she said.

With over 2.6 million of its citizens forcibly displaced, the world’s youngest nation currently ranks among the countries with the highest levels of conflict-induced population displacement globally. At the moment, half the population relies on humanitarian aid. South Sudan gained independence from its northern neighbour, Sudan, five years ago.
-0- PANA MA 2Aug2016

02 august 2016 10:02:11

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