13 July 2012

Sudan: Rains Worsen Humanitarian Situation for Refugees in Unity State

Bentiu — Conditions in Unity State's refugee camps are worsening under the strain over large numbers of refugees from fighting across the border in Sudan who are malnourished and weakened state, according to the United Nations.

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said this week that 'the health situation in Unity State's refugee settlements has become a key humanitarian priority, as conditions worsen under the strain of continuing large refugee inflows and flooding from torrential rains.'

Since May the population in Unity State's Yida refugee site has more than doubled to around 64,000 people due to the fighting and humanitarian situation in Sudan's South Kordofan State.

Access to the already congested camp is being hindered buy the onset of the rainy season, which has also triggered an increase in diarrhea at the site since July 2.

OCHA report that more 'wells are being drilled to secure clean and sufficient drinking water and improved sanitation.'

In its weekly briefing covering July 2-8 OCHA said:

In light of the weakened state of many refugees on arrival to Unity State, large-scale programmes are required to prevent their health from deteriorating further. Health organizations are undertaking a mass health screening to obtain better data on mortality rates and vaccination coverage rates across all refugee sites in Upper Nile and Unity states.

Aids agencies in Unity State struggling to reach Yida and Nyal camps in Parieng County, due to heavy flooding making the road impassable.

As the fighting intensifies in South Kordofan many more refugee are increasing in number according to the UN's Refugee Agency (UNHCR). In April this year the World Food Programme erected 10 halls for food stored for the estimate of 31,000 refugees but the number there have now more than doubled.

State director of the South Sudan Relief Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC), William Kuol Geng, told Sudan Tribune on Friday that humanitarian agencies are struggling to deliver food and non-food items for the nearly 70,000 of refugees in Yida, Parieng and Nyal.

Sudanese women line up for water in Yida refugee camp, Unity State, South Sudan, 12 July 2012 (Bonifacio Taban/ST)

As last year in July the rains have affected poor hygiene, infrastructure, security for refugees and the ability for humanitarian workers to deliver aid. during rainy season.

Last year one charity, Samaritan's Purse, air dropped supplies into the area, a method Geng recommended be used again.

UN agencies say that Yida Camp is too close to the disputed and tense international border with Sudan and is therefore not a secure enough location to house the refugees. However, people have been reticent to move despite the site being bombed by the Sudan Armed Forces last year.

Local authorities and the UN have both failed to convince the refugees to move further into Unity State away from the border.

It is believed that Nuba people do not want to move further from the border as being so close allows them to return easily. Sudan accuses South Sudan have supporting and the SPLM-N rebels it is fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

A new group of refugees arrive from South Kordofan are registered at Yida camp in Unity State, South Sudan, 12 July 2012 (Bonifacio Taban/ST)

The fighting was triggered by a failure to implement a 2005 peace deal. As well as granting South Sudan the right to seceded, areas with SPLM support in north were given special status.

Last year the Sudanese military attempted to disarm the SPLM-N in South Kordofan in the run-up to South Sudan's independence in July 2011, before other aspects of the agreement had been implemented.

The fighting spilled over into Blue Nile State in August.

An estimate 500 to 1,000 refugees arrive each day from South Kordofan into Unity State.

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