By Julius N. Uma
July 4, 2012 (JUBA) - The United Nations Refugee agency (UNHCR) on Wednesday warned of the dire conditions of Sudanese refugees fleeing the fighting in Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan, saying humanitarian efforts to save them were close to “breaking point”.
- CAPTION: António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UN photo)
More than 200,000 people, according to the agency, are currently displace in neighbouring South Sudan and Ethiopia, with the numbers anticipated to continue rising.
“The combination of difficult and dangerous conditions in South Sudan and the huge numbers of refugees arriving there mean our operations are severely stretched,” said António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
“And people are still arriving every day, many of them malnourished, and including unaccompanied children in groups,” he added.
Statistics provided by UNHCR field offices in Ethiopia and South Sudan reportedly indicate that over 211,000 refugees have so far arrived from Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, with over 36,000 of them said to be in the Assosa region of Ethiopia.
The agency further warned that excessive pressure, due to the massive refugee influx, still remains on South Sudan, which reportedly hosts about 62,000 and 113,000 people in Unity and Upper Nile state states respectively.
Most of these refugees, UNHCR says, live in remote areas that lack basic infrastructure, with children and teenagers accounting for 52 per cent of the refugees in Assosa, 44 per cent in Upper Nile State and 65 per cent in Unity State.
In South Sudan, for instance, UNHCR says water supplies for the refugee population have become “acutely” problematic, and it’s likely to worsen with a new rainy season. Health risks, it adds, remains high given that only a third or less of the refugees can reportedly access clean water on a daily basis from existing boreholes dug in camps.
“The complexity of the Sudan crisis sets it apart,” said Guterres, in a statement.
“We are contending with a situation in which many newly arriving refugees are already dangerously malnourished; the threat from water-borne disease is high; large refugee populations are in locations that are unambiguously dangerous; and flooded roads block access and the possibility of relocating people elsewhere – even where better sites can be found. More help is urgently needed,” added the UN High Commissioner.
Meanwhile, UNHCR has appealed for donations from both governments and the public to help it cope with the crisis situation. The appeal comes less than a month since the refugee agency announced that its existing contributions had been exhausted, yet it required $219m to address the plight of people displaced in South Sudan and Ethiopia.
However, only $45.9m, it says, has so far been received.