January 16, 2014 (JUBA) – At least 78,000 South Sudanese have crossed into neighbouring Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya in the aftermath of conflict in the new nations, the United Nations said.
- Displaced people who fled violence in the capital, Juba, gather around a water truck to fill containers at a UN compound on 29 December 2013 (Photo: AP/Ben Curtis)
Adrian Edwards, a spokesperson for UN refugee agency (UNHCR) disclose that more than half of those fleeing fighting were in Uganda and the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC).
"In all, 42,654 mostly women and children, from Nimule in South Sudan, are now in the Ugandan districts of Arua, Adjumani and Kiryandongo," Edwards said.
"According to colleagues, many men are taking their families to the Ugandan border and leaving them there before returning back to their country. From the refugees we have spoken to we are hearing eye-witness accounts of killings, houses being burnt and shooting," he added.
Kenya, according to Edwards, has also seen 6,778 arrivals of South Sudanese from Jonglei state, with UNHCR expressing concerns about the large presence of children among those fleeing the violence.
He said a joint assessment mission with the UN Children Fund (UNICEF) was underway to find out more about their situation, and the needs, including family reunification or foster care for those who are separated or unaccompanied.
Current estimates, according to UNHCR, show that 10,000 have crossed into West and South Kordofan, two of Sudan volatile states.
"The majorities are nomads and, so far, we have not been able to verify exact numbers due to lack of access," Edwards observed.
The refugee body, however, warned of more displacements should violence continue in parts of South Sudan’s conflict ridden Upper Nile and Jonglei states.
"With fighting still being reported in parts of South Sudan-mainly in the states of Jonglei and Upper Nile – and the slow progress in the political talks in Addis Ababa, we are anticipating further displacement both within and beyond the borders of South Sudan,” said the UNHCR spokesperson.
Meanwhile, UNHCR said internal displacement figures of people had risen from 200,000 last week to 355,000. This, it said, had been fuelled by the fighting, combined with deteriorating living conditions, including a lack of food in some markets.
Despite the challenges, however, the agency said it continues to provide assistance to 230,000 refugees in 10 camps in South Sudan, with assistance from World Food Programme and its other partners.