Bunj, South Sudan, June 11, 2012 (SSNA) — Over the weekend, UNHCR and humanitarian partners moved 8,000 refugees from Hofra to Kilo 18, amid reports that up to 15,000 new arrivals could enter Upper Nile state in the coming days.
“The move was necessitated by the rapid deterioration of living conditions in Hofra.” said UNHCR’s Fred Cussigh, in Maban county, Upper Nile. “The risk factors for the population of over 30,000 refugees became amplified as the supply of potable water in Hofra dwindled.”
Last week MSF reported seven deaths in Hofra, which is located some 25km from the border with Sudan. Cussigh said, “The deaths are linked to the poor state of refugees arriving from Blue Nile state. They are generally exhausted, hungry and dehydrated from long journeys on foot with little or nothing to eat or drink.”
Hofra (also known as Rum) was designated as a transit site two weeks ago, following the recent surge in numbers of new arrivals, while agencies continued efforts to address critical water gaps.
Cussigh confirms that agencies had been searching alternative sites as the water supply in Hofra declined. “Kilo 18 has the biggest haffir (man-made dam) between the Elfoj border entry point and Jammam refugee settlement, with sufficient water to last up to two weeks.” He added that the proximity of Kilo 18 to Hofra will allow all refugees to relocate by Tuesday. They will then be transported to a more durable site in Yusuf Batil.
The weekend emergency relocation operation began after food had been distributed to all 32,000 refugees in Hofra. MSF moved its water treatment facility and field medical centre from Hofra to Kilo 18 and is maintaining a 24 hour presence. UNHCR provided trucks and tractors with trailers while camp management NGO, ACTED, constructed emergency shelters for the most vulnerable. Sixty units were erected on Saturday; and construction is continuing. High energy biscuits and soap were airlifted from Malakal for the group in Kilo 18.
Meanwhile, Cussigh announced a breakthrough in the efforts to drill for water. “The plan is to move the refugees permanently to Yusuf Batil in the coming days. Two new boreholes have produced a promising yield of water over the past few days,” he said.
The first borehole is producing 7.5 cubic metres of water per hour. The second one is expected to produce the same quantity. The combined volume of water could sustain a population of 20,000. However, mandatory testing is required, to ensure that the volume of flow from these sources is sustainable. Testing for the second borehole will be completed in a few days. Drilling of additional boreholes in Yusuf Batil is ongoing.
Ultimately, the goal is to move entire group of refugees who were in Hofra to Yusuf Batil, the newest of three refugee settlements in Upper Nile state. Currently Yusuf Batil has a population of 5,250 refugees who rely on a combination of pumped and trucked water. The other settlement, Doro, is filled to capacity while Jammam has been plagued by inadequate water supply as refugee numbers multiplied. Yusuf-Batil was established in May, initially to ease pressures on water in Jammam. However, with the surge in new arrivals in late May, relocation from border areas became the priority and the move from Jammam was temporarily suspended.
UNHCR has initiated contact with South Sudanese authorities and local communities for additional refugee sites outside of Maban county. A site in Melut County where water would be sourced from the Nile is being undertaken for the Jammam relocation, which will resume immediately.
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