More than 8,000 civilians have fled to South Sudan to escape fighting in the state of Southern Kordofan in neighbouring Sudan, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Most of the displaced come from the Nuba Mountains region and began trickling into South Sudan in July, but there has been a surge in arrivals since last week, with up to 500 people arriving every day in the newly independent country, Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UNHCR, told reporters during a briefing this morning in Geneva.
He said that refugees walked for days to reach safety and are now situated in remote areas of South Sudan’s Unity state, where there is a lack of humanitarian access due to poor quality roads. Limited aid has been delivered through a small number of quad bikes – one of the few means of travelling through the area – and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) recently airdropped food to the region.
“We are supporting a mobile clinic to address the health needs, and our partners have been working on improving water and sanitation facilities and providing treatment for the severely malnourished. Meanwhile we are currently developing a site to relocate the refugees away from the border. The work includes building health, school, and clean water and sanitation facilities,” Mr. Edwards said.
He acknowledged that relocating refugees to the new site will be difficult because of the absence of, or extremely bad quality of the roads.
“The authorities of Unity state have started doing urgent repairs to open up roads to cars and trucks again. In the interim, however, most of the displaced will have to trek to the new site on foot. Specific transport arrangements will be made for the most vulnerable to spare them the harsh journey.”
“We expect more arrivals amid persistent reports of aerial bombing in Southern Kordofan,” he added.
More than 80,000 people have been displaced since violence broke out in Kadugli in early June between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N). In the past two months, some 20,000 of the displaced fled to neighbouring Ethiopia, where various UN agencies are currently providing assistance.
There has been growing concern on the situation in the region, as a report released last month by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the former UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) described a wide range of alleged violations of international law in Southern Kordofan during June.
Reported violations included extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention, enforced disappearances, attacks against civilians, looting of civilian homes and destruction of property, as well as aerial bombardments on civilian areas resulting in significant loss of life.