8 November 2012

South Sudan: UNHCR Prepares for Massive Influx of Refugees Into S. Sudan

Juba — The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) on Thursday said it has embarked on measures to cope with a likely influx of Sudanese refugees into South Sudan's Upper Nile state.

Sudanese refugees wait in line to board a truck heading to Batil refugee camp July 15, 2012 in Jamam camp, South Sudan. (Getty)

Between 30,000 to 40,000 people, the agency says, could arrive into the young nation due to escalating conflict in Sudan's Blue Nile and South Kordofan, before the end of the year.

In the last week of October, UNHCR staff reportedly registered 72 new arrivals in Gendrassa, mostly women and children. These numbers, according to the agency, is highest weekly arrival figure since the rainy season began in May.

Mireille Girard, UNHCR's representative in South Sudan, said more refugees are likely to cross the border if fighting between the Sudanese armed forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North (SPLM-N) rebels escalated during the coming dry season.

"Food shortages would also be a push factor," she said in a statement.

Girard, however, said UNHCR had started preparing a contingency plan to meet the most pressing needs of up to 30,000 new refugee arrivals in Maban County between now and the end of the year.

"It covers key areas such as shelter, health care, food rations and non-food items such as plastic sheeting, blankets, sleeping mats, hygiene sets and kitchen items," she emphasized.

UNHCR currently works in four refugee camps in Upper Nile state's Maban County, including Gendrassa, which reportedly hosts some 14,300 refugees and is the only one that has not yet reached full capacity.

Last week, UNHCR called for immediate relocation of nearly 63,000 Sudanese refugees currently living in South Sudan's Unity state, citing insecurity concerns along its border with neighboring South Kordodan state.

Adrian Edwards, the spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Refugees said the agency was assessing several alternative sites, with a view to relocating people as soon as rainy season conditions allowed.

An estimated 520,000 people, according to a recent UN report, have been displaced or severely affected by conflict in South Kordofan besides some 205,000 refugees from South Kordofan and Blue Nile, who are now in South Sudan and Ethiopia.

Meanwhile, the refugee agency says it urgently needs an additional $20m before January next year, to deal with an expected influx of between 30,000-40,000 people into South Sudan from neighboring Sudan.

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