South Sudan faces trouble with influx of refugees

South Sudan needs “massive” humanitarian support.

This is the call made by U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres after meeting with refugees at Doro camp in the country’s Upper Nile state. He said without the international community’s help, it will be impossible to respond to the forced displacement crises in the country.

“We could face a humanitarian disaster of enormous proportions,” he warned.

South Sudan, a nation of only six months, is one of the poorest and least-developed nations in the world. Much of the international community’s attention has been focused on Jonglei state in recent weeks due to ethnic violence in Pibor. But the country has been struggling for months to cope with the influx of refugees fleeing conflict in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states. The horror that affected 60,000 people in Jonglei state last month only made matters worse.

Apart from the 28,000 refugees in Doro camp, close to 25,000 civilians have sought refuge in other parts of the Upper Nile.

The number does not end there. Thousands of refugees also continue to arrive in South Sudan’s Unity state. Last month, UNHCR reported about 22,000 have settled at the Yida camp since August.

Refugee leaders who met with Guterres also claimed at least 300,000 people are hiding in the Nuba mountains in South Kordofan, “terrified and quickly running out of food and water.” This, however, could not be “independently confirmed.”

Meanwhile, Oxfam says growing fears of a major food crisis in Sudan will likely force more refugees to the country. The agency reports early warning systems in parts of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile predict food insecurity will reach phase 4 of 5 — a step below famine levels. However, because of the conflict and insecurity, many of the rural areas on both sides remain inaccessible to humanitarian organizations.

UNHCR is already airlifting aid to remote refugee sites in the country and is working with partners to provide shelter and deliver basic services to the refugees. Oxfam, for its part, is boosting its water and sanitation work for new arrivals. But with the huge number of people in need of assistance, more humanitarian aid is wanted in South Sudan.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.