Juba, May 23, 2012 (SSNA) — Over the last few days, the number of Sudanese refugees who crossed the border into South Sudan from Blue Nile state increased from 1,500 to 10,000, bringing the total number of refugees in Upper Nile state to over 80,000.
The new arrivals, who converged near the border, are exhausted from long journeys, having walked for several days after fleeing their villages in the wake of continuing fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N). Many became separated from family members. Unconfirmed reports indicate that thousands more are en route.
Speaking from Bunj in Upper Nile state, Frederic Cussigh, head of UNHCR’s operations in the area said, “Yesterday we moved the first 400 refugees away from the border. Today another convoy has left with 400 refugees.” Cussigh confirmed that all refugees are receiving medical attention and food parcels to last five days before they leave the border area.
It is to be expected that the onset of the rainy season will present challenges as road conditions deteriorate. Yesterday’s convoy took four hours to cover a 20km stretch, and the refugees on board had to spend the night in Jamam. They are now on their way to Yusuf Batil. Convoy vehicles require a full day to return to Elfoj for the next round.
In Yusuf Batil, 300 tents have been pitched to accommodate new arrivals, and that work continues. As soon as the refugees arrive, UNHCR and partner staff will register them and distribute non-food items. WFP will begin monthly food distribution in Yusuf Batil this Friday.
Yusuf Batil is the third refugee settlement in Upper Nile, after Doro and Jamam. It was established in the bid to reduce pressure on Jamam’s limited water supply, and prevent the possible outbreak of disease.
With the rapidly growing refugee population, availability of potable water remains one of the critical issues confronting humanitarian actors in Upper Nile state. It reflects a familiar dilemma in South Sudan where, according to UN indicators, only 5% of the general population has access to a regular supply of clean water.
No effort is being spared to provide adequate water for refugees in all three settlements. Currently 35,000 litres of water are being trucked into Yusuf Batil on a daily basis. The relocation of 3,000 refugees from Jamam to Doro and Yusuf Batil last week has eased pressures on the water yield in Jamam. Meanwhile, humanitarian partners have reached agreement on laying 14 km of pipeline to guarantee the continued supply of water to Jamam.
UNHCR’s Regional Water & Sanitation Coordinator, Andrea Cippa remarked, “The situation in Upper Nile is striking. The combination of black cotton soil and lack of adequate drilling equipment and consumables have thus far hampered extensive efforts to alleviate water shortages in refugee settlements.
“As part of the continuing effort to identify water sources, we airlifted two rigs to Yusuf Batil last week following favourable hydrogeological surveillance. We are also continuing drilling efforts in the Doro and Jamam settlements,” Cippa added.
To address the possible outbreak of water-related disease, medical and other humanitarian actors have drawn up contingency plans, and pre-positioned medical supplies and treatment units.
South Sudan is currently hosting close to 150,000 refugees in the states of Central Equatoria (10,900), Jonglei (3,500), Unity (38,300), Upper Nile (80,000) and Western Equatoria (15,600). They originate from Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Sudan.
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