Population of refugees in Yida settlement passes the 35,000 mark: UNHCR

Juba, May 23, 2012 (SSNA) — The number of refugees arriving in Yida from the
Nuba Mountains continues to increase, and crossed the 35,000 mark over the weekend. The flow of new arrivals has been erratic during the month of May, with highs of over 700 on some days and lows of under 100 on others. The present average arrival rate of 434 refugees per day represents a 47% increase over the rate in April.  If the present trend continues, there will be over 40,000 refugees in the settlement by the end of May.

The general condition of new arrivals is very poor. Refugees normally arrive by the only road through the disputed area of Jau, a 40km journey through dense bush with regular military traffic. Most travel on foot with the few possessions they are able to carry. Many are hungry and there are increasing signs of malnourishment owing to the lack of humanitarian assistance in their home areas.

Conditions in Yida are both difficult and dangerous given its proximity to the border, previous bombardment, overall militarization of the area, and the lack of a large host community or infrastructure. Despite efforts by UNHCR, NGOs and others to encourage movement to areas of greater safety and better infrastructure, identified and equipped by UNHCR and the government of South Sudan, many remain in Yida – hesitant to be too far from home, and hopeful to return there quickly. Delivery of humanitarian assistance in Yida is likewise a challenge. Risks are associated with its proximity to the disputed border zone as well as the looming arrival of rainy season, which will make the area accessible only by air for several months.

Upon arriving in Yida, refugees are registered and immediately provided with water and high energy biscuits. A medical screening follows after which they receive an initial two-week WFP food ration to cover them until the next general food distribution. Agencies provide urgent medical attention and therapeutic feeding. During the last two weeks UNHCR distributed plastic sheets, mosquito nets, sleeping mats and blankets to 2,540 households. While we initially prioritized the most vulnerable, particularly older persons, unaccompanied minors and female-headed households, we plan to ensure the entire population has sufficient supplies to carry them through the rainy season.

UNHCR has strengthened its presence in Yida and is engaging more predictably with the refugee community and humanitarian actors. “While Yida remains highly problematic as a safe location for refugees, the resilience and self-sufficiency of the population is truly amazing. Despite UNHCR’s continued belief that refugees will be safer farther south and away from the border and conflict area, we have significantly enhanced our protection and assistance presence to build upon the
remarkable capacity of the people.” These observations were made by Peter Trotter, UNHCR Senior Protection Officer after completing a four-week assessment in Yida.

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For further information, please contact:

Juba: Teresa Ongaro, mobile: +211 927 770 040; email: [email protected]
Nairobi: Vivian Tan, mobile: +254 735 337 608; email: [email protected] 
Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, mobile: +41 79 249 3483; email
[email protected]
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