2 April 2012

East Africa: Hundreds Flee Sudan and South Sudan Border Areas

Juba — Recent clashes in Sudan and South Sudan border areas have displaced over 400 people, with more expected, while about 80 casualties injured from the fight are reportedly hospitalized in Unity state and Juba, the South Sudan capital.

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), in its latest weekly report, describes as "unpredictable" the situation in the border region, following series of military clashes in recent days between South Sudan army and Sudan Armed Forces (SAF).

"The security situation along the border with Sudan deteriorated sharply over the week, with reports of aerial and ground attacks on 26 and 27 March in the Tishwin and Higlig areas," UNOCHA notes in the 23-29 March report, adding that plans are underway to conduct a rapid inter-agency assessment in coming days to determine needs and required response of displaced people.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General on Monday expressed deep concerns over the continued fighting along the two nation's border, and reiterated the call for both governments to immediately cease hostilities and implement the agreements already reached on security, border monitoring and Abyei.

South Sudan leader, Salva Kiir is due to meet his Sudanese counterpart, Omar Hassan al-Bashir for presidential summit earlier scheduled for 03 April in Juba, which seems unlikely.

On March 27, the UN Security Council also issued a press statement calling on the governments of Sudan and South Sudan to exercise maximum restraint and sustain purposeful dialogue in order to address peacefully the issues that are fuelling mistrust between the two countries, including oil issues, violence in the border region, citizenship, and Abyei.

Meanwhile, UN refugee agency (UNHCR) also expressed serious concerns that the recurrent fighting in disputed areas along the two countries' border limits the safety of refugees in the nearby Yida settlement area. The recent clashes may not have affected the refugees, but their welfare and security remains a big concern to the agency.

As of 29 March, more than 85,000 refugees have reportedly been registered due to the massive influx of people fleeing the fighting in Blue Nile into South Sudan's Upper Nile State. Over 49,000 of them are stationed in Doro, while the about 36,000 people in Jammam refugee sites.

On the situation in Jonglei, UNOCHA says the ongoing disarmament has greatly been hampered by some Murle and Lou Nuer communities resisting the exercise. As such, humanitarian partners are reportedly concerned that clashes may break out when the Murle meet with the Lou Nuer youths, as both sides are still armed.

Also noted is the unexpected increase in food prices, currently seen as the driving force behind rising food insecurity fears, exacerbated by localized conflict. According to UNOCHA, results from the February 2012 round of the food security monitoring system show a deterioration in food security from October 2011 in the northern states of Western Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap and Unity.

"The food insecure households in the country remain at 50 per cent, or about 4.7 million people," it says, while Western Bahr el Ghazal, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, Jonglei and Unity as the most food insecure state in the world's newest nation.

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