Voice of America (Washington, DC)

South Sudan: 86,000 Flee in Past Month

About 86,000 South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries to escape fighting and insecurity. The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, plans to open new camps - and expand existing ones - in Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya.

UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards says the number of people fleeing South Sudan continues to grow.

"We're looking at at least a thousand people crossing borders into neighboring countries per day over the last week. Those numbers have risen sharply. We have in the region just over the last month about 86,000 South Sudanese refugees. By the end of January it could exceed a hundred thousand and it could continue rising from there unless we see a change inside South Sudan itself."

While UNHCR is very experienced in setting-up camps, Edwards said, the rapidly rising number of refugees has made the situation even more urgent.

He said, "Uganda is at present bearing the brunt of this. There are more than 46,000 South Sudanese refugees now in Uganda. And there are real problems there in trying to address their need -- enormous congestion at a transit center near the border -- real problems there getting enough water for people. We've had reports even of people trying to rent spaces - would you believe it - beneath trees just simply to find somewhere to be. So, there's real pressure on there to try and get these people out of these reception areas and into somewhere more permanent, at least for the time being."

There are over 20,000 South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia - nearly 9,000 in Kenya and about 10,000 in Sudan.

"If you're crossing into Sudan from South Sudan right now you're potentially moving into a region where there has been conflict. And this is primarily the Kordofan states and also the East Darfur area. We don't have the access we would like to these areas, so it's hard to monitor and assess needs closely," said Edwards.

UNHCR is working with local NGOs to help those crossing into Sudan.

"If you're fleeing into a neighboring conflict zone from South Sudan, really it's a very sad reflection of just how difficult the situation in South Sudan itself is," said Edwards.

U.N. humanitarian officials estimate the number of displaced people in South Sudan to be around 460,000. About 67,000 of them have taken refuge at bases of the U.N. mission, UNMISS.

"We're trying there to deal with some of the problems that arise in a conflict situation," said Edwards, "For example, sexual gender violence, the other kind of protection issues you can imagine in the situation you have at the moment in South Sudan. We've had reports, for example, of a thousand people for a single latrine. You can imagine the pressure and the risks there are for security in that environment and for health in that environment."

The U.N. refugee agency says it needs 88-million dollars to respond to the South Sudan crisis, including the opening of new camps in neighbouring countries.

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