UN: UNHCR says South Sudanese exodus affecting neighbouring countries

New York, US (PANA) - Neighbouring countries hosting refugees from South Sudan are straining under the sheer weight of the ongoing exodus, as desperate people continue to arrive at their borders daily, joining hundreds of thousands of others who fled for safety before them, the UN has warned.

"There are already some 930,000 refugees in the region, and more are arriving daily," Adrian Edwards, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told reporters at a news briefing on Friday.

He said: "The UN refugee agency is extremely worried that even as the refugee population grows, funds to meet basic needs are becoming exhausted and in addition to the refugee numbers, there are 1.61 million people who are displaced within South Sudan.

"Also following the humanitarian crisis, the UNHCR is facing critical funding shortage, having received only about 20 per cent of the US$608.8 million needed for refugees in South Sudan and the six countries of asylum, and a number of its programmes have been suspended to enable critical life-saving support for new arrivals.

"Worst affected are the remote regions in Uganda, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR), where UNHCR had no previous presence. Ethiopia and Sudan, which have experienced mass influxes, are also badly affected."

Edwards also disclosed that the recent outbreak of violence in the capital, Juba, appears to have tipped the scales against an imminent political solution to the South Sudan conflict.

"There are numerous reports of sporadic armed clashes, human rights violations including sexual and gender-based violence by armed groups, and worsening food insecurity, which is inflicting immense suffering in South Sudan," he said.

The situation in previously stable areas has deteriorated and some 200,000 individuals have fled new violence in previously stable areas such as Greater Equatoria and Greater Bahr-el-Ghazal.

Also, the situation has been further compounded by a deteriorating South Sudanese economy. Inflation has risen an unprecedented 600 per cent over the past year, causing a severe fall in the purchasing value of money.

At the same time, the condition of refugee settlements is equally desperate. A particular case is Uganda, where three quarters of the refugee arrivals have headed since the outbreak of conflict in July, when the arrival rate peaked at more than 8,000 in one day.

According to the official, new arrivals, about 90 per cent of whom are women and children, are mostly from Juba and other parts of Central Equatoria, indicating a breakdown in law and order in their home areas.

"People cite rampant violence including killings and clashes between government forces and armed groups, and they also report that armed groups are robbing civilians and extorting money from them, preventing those who are unable to pay from leaving, and sexually assaulting women," he said. "Armed groups are reportedly abducting children aged 12 and above from schools and threatening people. Disappearances are said to be on the rise."

Uganda and Sudan have received an estimated 110,000 and 100,000 new arrivals respectively in 2016, together accounting for more than 90 per cent of the new arrivals in the region.

"To cope with the arrivals, the Government of Uganda has opened a new settlement in Yumbe, located in the northwest of the country, with a capacity for more than 100,000 individuals. But funds are urgently needed to speed the relocation of more than 45,000 refugees out of overstretched and severely congested reception and transit centres," Edwards said.

With people living in such close proximity, the potential for disease outbreak is high. UNHCR teams are monitoring the situation closely, but need further resources to respond effectively.

The spokesperson commended the generosity of countries that are keeping their borders open and providing South Sudanese refugees with land for settlement.

"In particular, we applaud Uganda’s generous refugee law and policy regime, which among other benefits grants refugees freedom of movement, the right to seek employment and provides them with plots of land on which to build new homes and to grow agricultural crops," he said.

UNHCR has appealed to the international community to support countries of asylum to protect and assist South Sudanese refugees.

"Continuing funding shortages will further disadvantage women, children and men who need urgent sustained help to overcome the trauma of forced displacement and get on the path to recovery, self-reliance and human dignity," Edwards added.
-0-  PANA  AA/AR  12Aug2016

12 august 2016 17:29:46

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