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UNHCR warns that operations for Sudanese refugees at breaking point

News Stories, 05 July 2012

© UNHCR/P.Rulashe

Sudanese refugees undergo medical screening at a settlement in Upper Nile state.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres is warning that the situation for refugees fleeing Sudan's Blue Nile and South Kordofan states has become critical, with more than 200,000 people displaced into neighbouring South Sudan and Ethiopia and humanitarian efforts in South Sudan close to breaking point.

"The combination of difficult and dangerous conditions in South Sudan and the huge numbers of refugees arriving there mean our operations are severely stretched," Guterres said. "And people are still arriving every day, many of them malnourished, and including unaccompanied children in groups."

UNHCR field offices in Ethiopia and South Sudan say 211,700 refugees have so far arrived from Sudan's Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. Some 36,700 of these are in the Assosa region of Ethiopia.

But the major pressure of this influx is on South Sudan, with 62,000 people in Unity state and 113,000 in Upper Nile state – most in remote areas lacking even basic infrastructure. Children and teenagers account for 52 per cent of the refugees in Assosa, 44 per cent in Upper Nile State and 65 per cent in Unity State.

In South Sudan, water supply for this population has become acutely problematic, even with a new rainy season having recently begun. Much of the Jammam camp in Upper Nile, for example, is in ankle-deep water, yet the amount of water available for drinking and sanitation is still far below the levels needed. Boreholes have been dug there and in other camps, but many refugees still receive only a third or less of the minimum daily clean water supply. This heightens the health risks.

"The complexity of the Sudan crisis sets it apart," Guterres said. "We are contending with a situation in which many newly arriving refugees are already dangerously malnourished; the threat from water-borne disease is high; large refugee populations are in locations that are unambiguously dangerous; and flooded roads block access and the possibility of relocating people elsewhere – even where better sites can be found. More help is urgently needed."

UNHCR has appealed to governments and the public to help by donating additional funds for the Sudan refugee crisis. On June 22nd, the agency announced that its existing contributions had been exhausted and said its needs for Sudanese refugees in South Sudan and Ethiopia stood at £141 million ($219 million) for 2012. Thus far it has received £29.5 million ($45.9 million).

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