The United Nations refugee agency and its partners have relocated 8,000 Sudanese refugees from a transit site in the north-east of South Sudan to relieve overcrowding.
The move over the weekend follows several deaths, and the prospect of new arrivals of up to 15,000 refugees into South Sudan's Upper Nile state, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Adrian Edwards, told reporters in Geneva.
South Sudan is currently hosting more than 150,000 refugees from Sudan, many of whom have fled conflict and lack of food in their homeland. Over 112,000 of these are in Upper Nile state, while a further 51,000 are in settlements further west in Unity state.
Last week, the non-governmental organization Médecins Sans Frontières reported seven deaths among recent arrivals at the transit site of Hofra, about 25 kilometres from the border with Sudan.
"The deaths are believed to be linked to the weak state the refugees arrived in after walking for weeks from Blue Nile state with little to eat or drink," said Mr. Edwards, adding that these risk factors are amplified by the dwindling supply of water in Hofra.
The weekend emergency relocation began after food and other relief items had been distributed to all 32,000 refugees in Hofra. UNHCR took the refugees to another transit site called Kilo 18, where an estimated two weeks of water supply is available. From Kilo 18, the refugees will be relocated permanently to UNHCR's newest camp in Upper Nile state, called Yusuf Batil.
UNHCR is working with the South Sudanese authorities and local communities to identify additional refugee sites outside Maban county, where the refuges are currently hosted.
"We are searching for a suitable site in Melut county where water would be sourced from the Nile - the hope being to relocate refugees from Jammam camp to ease the pressure on limited water supplies," Mr. Edwards said.