An estimated 20,000 refugees have amassed on the South Sudan border after fleeing conflict and lack of food, the United Nations refugee agency said today, adding that it is working to relocate them and provide them with emergency aid.
A spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Adrian Edwards, told reporters in Geneva that many of the refugees in South Sudan's Elfoj border area had fled because of the ongoing bombing and ground fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North in the Sudanese state of Blue Nile.
"As a result of the fighting, villagers had had limited access to food and the fields for farming. A number of refugees had arrived at hospitals in poor health after surviving on tree leaves for some time," Mr. Edwards said.
He added that refugees interviewed by UNHCR staff reported that up to 40,000 more people could be en route to South Sudan.
Since 19 May, UNCHR has transported several thousand refugees to its new camp, Yusuf Batil. Others have been relocated some 30 kilometres from Elfoj to Rum, a transit site where UNHCR and the World Food Programme (WFP) are providing food rations and water.
According to Mr. Edwards, UNHCR is carrying out relocations three times a week from Rum to the Yusuf Batil camp, of about 1,000 people at a time, based on the capacity of services. However, rain and muddy roads are slowing down the movements.
Mr. Edwards warned that the current refugee influx is "putting tremendous strains on limited resources in this remote area of South Sudan," and said that UNHCR is in the process of relocating 15,000 refugees from the Jammam camp to the Doro and Batil camps to ease congestion and the pressure on limited water supplies in Jammam.
The recent wave of refugees brings the total number of Sudanese refugees in South Sudan's Upper Nile state to about 100,000. Meanwhile, South Sudan's Unity state is hosting another 38,000 refugees from Sudan's South Kordofan state.