The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said today that the number of conflict-displaced persons sheltering at its bases is likely to remain high over the coming months in light of insecurity and the projected worsening of the food security situation.
Derk Segaar, Head of the Mission's Recovery, Reintegration and Peacebuilding Section, told a news conference in the capital, Juba, that there are currently about 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) seeking protection in 10 UN bases around the country.
The Mission took the unprecedented decision to open its gates to all unarmed civilians facing an imminent threat of physical violence when the crisis in South Sudan erupted last December. Despite a cessation of hostilities signed by the parties, peace and stability have yet to be restored to the extent that the IDPs feel safe enough to return to their homes.
"In view of uncertainties surrounding the cessation of hostilities and the projected deterioration of the food security situation in conflict-affected states, the numbers of IDPs in UNMISS bases are expected to remain high over the coming months," said Mr. Segaar.
He noted that UNMISS did not expect the current scenario and its military bases were not prepared to house so many IDPs for such a prolonged time.
"As a result, many IDPs are living in very congested conditions, creating serious sanitary and health concerns that are further exacerbated by the rainy season," he said, adding that despite ongoing improvements, flooding now occurs regularly in all protection sites.
The Mission voiced particular concern about the situation in Bentiu, where 100 to 200 displaced people continue to arrive daily, many of whom are malnourished.
Humanitarian partners are working together with UNMISS to improve the situation, wherever possible, both by improving the situation in existing sites and by creating new sites that will decongest the current, improvised protection sites.
For example, two-thirds of the displaced - almost 12,000 people - at the UN base in Malakal have already moved into a new site. In Juba, relocations have begun to a new site that is ready to welcome up to 13,300 people.
"Of course, these are only temporary solutions to avoid a health crisis during the rainy season," Mr. Segaar stated.
"In the longer term, we hope a political solution and the stabilization of the security situation will create the conditions in which the IDPs will feel safe to go home."