Juba — United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is set to open a new refugee camp in the coming weeks in South Sudan's Unity state. UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards announced this yesterday.
Speaking in Geneva, Mr Edwards said the new refugee camp "will help to manage further inflows of Sudanese refugees and to decongest the existing settlement in Yida" where essential services are overstretched.
"Together with the South Sudanese government we have agreed to locate the new camp at Ajuong, a forested area of red sandy soil with good terrain, water resources, and plenty of space", he said. Ajuong is located in the border county of Pariang and is expected to hold about 20,000 refugees.
Mr Edwards noted that refugee leaders and UNHCR have been working jointly to assess the suitability of the new site. After a "go and see visit" organized for members of the refugee community, refugees determined that the site is suitable for them. The black cotton soil in the area could be used for agriculture by the refugee population. He also reported that the local communities in the area have also reacted positively to the proposal.
UNHCR also said it is planning to open other camps in Unity State which could eventually hold an estimated 110,000 refugees. Yida, which holds 61,000 people, currently is the largest refugee location in South Sudan. However the Yida site presents major problems, in large part because it is totally cut off during the six months of the rainy season, posing serious hygiene and health risks. According to the UNHCR spokesperson, the World Food Programme last year alone had to fly in 2,500 metric tons of food at high cost while UNHCR airlifted thousands of tons of essential relief items such as buckets, plastic sheets, and medicines.
"We are hoping that many existing refugees in other camps will choose to relocate there. The new site will allow refugees to live in a safe environment where better conditions exist for self-reliance and livelihoods assistance", he said.