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Number of South Sudanese refugees in Sudan set to double: UNHCR

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July 24, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The United Nations says it has revised the number of South Sudanese refugees expected to arrive in Sudan by the end of the year to about 165,000, almost double the previous estimate.

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South Sudanese refugees cook on an open fire at a camp run by the Sudanese Red Crescent Society in the western part of Sudan’s White Nile state on 27 January 2014 (Photo: AFP/Ashraf Shazly)

In its latest bulletin, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said ongoing violence, tribal tensions and food insecurity in South Sudan was driving the cross-border exodus.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is now seeking $113.5 million from donors to respond to the humanitarian needs of the new arrivals.

According to the UNHCR, 86,444 South Sudanese refugees have fled to the north since conflict erupted in mid-December last year after a political split in the ruling SPLM erupted in violence. On average 500 to 700 people arrive per week, with most crossing to the White Nile region.

Children comprise the largest group of new arrivals, accounting for 73 per cent, with the remainder made up of women and elderly people, OCHA says in its bulletin.

Most of those who arrive have little or no money or possessions, and have limited other means of supporting themselves in Sudan. Rates of malnutrition among new arrivals at some sites are also well above acceptable thresholds, says OCHA.

While international and national aid agencies are currently providing new arrivals from South Sudan with assistance, OCHA says the humanitarian situation is expected to become even more critical, particular during the upcoming rainy season.

Given serious food security issues in the border areas between the two countries and the continuation of conflict and ethnic tensions inside South Sudan, OCHA said the prospects of refugees being able to return to their homes in the near future remains bleak.

Meanwhile, some 450 new arrivals to West Kordofan from Unity state’s Keilak locality remain in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) plans to dispatch a team to register the new arrivals and assess their needs.

According to the head of Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) in West Kordofan, food, emergency household supplies and health assistance are among the most pressing needs.

Violence in South Sudan has displaced more than one million people, with tens of thousands fleeing to neighbouring countries.

Continued fighting has severely disrupted crop planting across the country, with aid agencies warning of a possible famine, while the influx of new arrivals to nearby African nations is placing increasing strain on already fragile humanitarian resources.

Regional and international efforts have so far failed to break the deadlock between the South Sudanese government and the rebel faction led by former vice-president Riek Machar.

Negotiations between the two warring parties are set to resume in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, next week.

The latest conflict is South Sudan’s worst outbreak of violence since it gained independence from Sudan in 2011, following the signing of a 2005 peace agreement that brought to an end more than two decades of civil war.

(ST)

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