Sudanese refugees face increasing challenges in South Sudan camps: UNHCR

UNHCR Press Release: Sudanese refugees face increasing challenges in South Sudan camps

Juba, May 2, 2012 (SSNA) — The UN refugee agency in South Sudan is concerned about increasing numbers of malnourished refugees arriving in Yida. Additionally, water shortages could worsen the plight of refugees in Jammam settlement. Urgent action is being taken to avert humanitarian
crises in both locations.

Yida, a refugee settlement in Unity state on the border with Southern Kordofan, received a daily average of 300 new arrivals in April, almost four times the rate in February and March. This week the population of Yida surpassed the 27,000 mark. New arrivals cite mostly food shortages in the Nuba Mountains as the cause of their flight.

QUOTE With the larger numbers of refugees arriving and increasing cases of malnutrition among them, we have stepped up assistance, UNQUOTE said Mireille Girard, UNHCR Representative in South Sudan.  QUOTE Upon arrival in Yida, refugees are screened and issued with food including high energy biscuits. Agencies are providing urgent medical attention to malnourished children and implementing therapeutic feeding programmes. UNQUOTE

According to Ravindran Velusamy, who heads UNHCR operations in Unity state, the swelling refugee population in Yida has increased pressures on basic services over the past month. QUOTE There are longer queues at water points. We are working with the community to manage timetables for drawing water while specialized agencies install additional water facilities. UNQUOTE

Velusamy noted that as the rainy season approaches, a blanket distribution of relief supplies is being organized. QUOTE Plastic sheeting for shelter and mosquito nets are the priority. We already had targeted distribution of essential items for the most vulnerable refugees, including older persons, the handicapped and unaccompanied minors. UNQUOTE New arrivals are also prioritized for distribution.

The World Food Programme is pre-positioning food stocks, and agencies are discussing arrangements to evacuate refugees who may need medical treatment as roads become impassable. QUOTE Last year, Yida was an island. Surrounding areas were flooded and road access was impossible. We had to fly in humanitarian aid, a costly endeavour with considerably less impact than overland operations, UNQUOTE said Girard.

Although recent hostilities between South Sudan and Sudan did not affect refugee locations in Unity state directly, UNHCR remains deeply concerned that the proximity of Yida to the disputed border area of Jaw is a serious threat to the refugees security. Preserving the civilian character of refugee locations also remains a core concern for humanitarians. We therefore continue to advocate for the refugees to move to other settlements at a safer distance from the border.

In Upper Nile state, humanitarian actors are stepping up measures to remedy water shortages and mitigate the risk of outbreaks of cholera or other water-borne diseases in Jammam refugee settlement.

A combination of factors, particularly population density and the limited water yield, is intensifying health risks. Jammam is home to 37,000 Sudanese refugees. The water supply situation became increasingly problematic as the population multiplied earlier this year. Existing sources could not yield adequate quantities of water to support growing demand. Despite extensive drilling, sufficient viable water sources have not emerged thus far.

Humanitarian partners have been trucking and piping water from elsewhere and treating surface water where available. Medical and other humanitarian actors drew up contingency plans to respond to any eventual outbreak of disease. They pre-positioned medical supplies and established treatment units.

QUOTE We are taking urgent measures to immediately move 15,000 refugees to a different location in order to reduce demands on limited water resources in Jammam, UNQUOTE said Frederic Cussigh, UNHCR head of operations in the area. QUOTE We will also continue drilling efforts, to provide water for the remaining 22,000 refugees as well as local communities. UNQUOTE

Urgent efforts are being made to transport a much larger rig than those already in place, to explore deeper water sources. Transporting such heavy duty equipment to this remote part of the country is a major logistical challenge.

In nearby Doro settlement where another 52,000 Sudanese refugees are residing, drilling efforts have been more successful. Partners have secured 13 litres of water per person per day and aim to reach the internationally recommended standard of 15 to 20 litres per person per day shortly.

Less than a year after gaining independence, South Sudan is one of Africa’s major refugee-hosting countries. In addition to nearly 120,000 Sudanese refugees in Unity and Upper Nile states, there are some 23,000 Congolese and Central African refugees in LRA-affected areas along the southern border, as well as some 4,000 Ethiopian Anyuak refugees in different parts of the country.

– END –


Teresa Ongaro, Senior External Relations Officer
UNHCR Juba, South Sudan
Telephone: +4122 739 7554 or Mobile +211 927 770 040
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