February 11, 2017 (JUBA) - More than three years of civil war in South Sudan has forced 1.5 million people to flee into neighboring countries, creating Africa’s largest refugee crisis and the third largest in the world, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said.
- South Sudanese refugee Nyarout Chuol with her children at a UNHCR-run refugee camp in Gambella, Ethiopia (Photo: William Davison)
Over 3.5 million people, it says, have been displaced since fighting erupted between the government of President Salva Kiir and rebel forces led by the country’s former First Vice-President Riek Machar in mid-December 2013.
More than 2 million people have been displaced within the country, while more than 1.5 million have reportedly taken refuge in Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Congo, and Central African Republic.
A spokesperson for the agency, William Spindler, said more than 760,000 people fled across borders after the collapse of a peace deal between the government and the armed opposition forces.
"More than 60 percent of the refugees are children, many arriving with alarming levels of malnutrition — enduring devastating impact of the brutalities of the ongoing conflict," he said in statement.
Some half-a-million had to flee the young nation in the last four months since September 2016, according to the U.N refugee body.
The South Sudan crisis, Spindler said, adds to the numerous humanitarian challenges the agency is grappling with, yet the refugee body lacks enough funds to tackle all these world problems.
He expressed concern about the South Sudan situation, citing the large size of its refugee crisis, which has also spread to its neighbours.
Last year’s appeal for $649 million, said Spindler, was funded to only 33 percent, making it extremely difficult to provide critical services, such as clean drinking water, food, health and sanitation facilities.
He, however, said that UNHCR was currently working with authorities in the host countries to provide life-saving support and basic needs for the many South Sudanese arriving in desperate condition.
Uganda is reportedly hosting nearly 700,000 South Sudanese refugees and its authorities have been commended for helping them.
Meanwhile UNHCR has appealed to the international community responded to the refugee agency’s appeal for $782 million to enable it could carry out its regional humanitarian operations.