The United Nations refugee agency said today it is expanding relief operations for refugees in the Yida camp in South Sudan, where the number of people fleeing conflict in neighbouring Sudan has risen to more than 35,000.
Refugees arriving at Yida have reported worsening security and humanitarian conditions in the Nuba Mountains area of South Kordofan state in Sudan, according to the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR), Melissa Fleming.
Some 430 refugees, on average, have been arriving daily this month, an increase of nearly 50 per cent compared to April.
"At this rate, the camp population will exceed 40,000 by the end of the month," Ms. Fleming told reporters in Geneva.
Yida remains an unsafe location for refugees because of its proximity to the border, she added. While efforts to encourage refugees to voluntarily move away from the border continue, aid will be boosted to improve conditions as the rainy season sets in. Over the past two weeks, UNHCR has distributed plastic sheets, mosquito nets, sleeping mats and blankets to more than 12,700 people.
"Initially, priority was given to the most vulnerable such as the elderly, unaccompanied minors and female-headed households," said Ms. Fleming. "We are now expanding this to all refugees."
Many refugees have been arriving in poor condition after a journey through dense bush, she noted, with most entering South Sudan via the disputed Jau border area, the only escape route to Yida, and with few possessions.
Hunger is widespread and there are increasing signs of malnutrition among new arrivals from the Nuba Mountains. In Yida, refugees are registered and given with water and high energy biscuits. A medical screening follows after which they receive initial two-week food rations provided by the UN World Food Programme (WFP), and aid agencies also provide medical attention and therapeutic feeding.
UNHCR is facing other challenges in South Sudan's Upper Nile state, which has also been receiving refugees fleeing conflict in Sudan's Blue Nile state.
"Our colleagues have seen some 12,000 Sudanese refugees who crossed the border from Blue Nile state since the weekend," said Ms. Fleming. "This brings the total number of refugees in Upper Nile state to over 80,000."
The new arrivals cite hunger and continuing fighting between the Sudanese armed forces and the rebel Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement-North.