Border insecurity increasing concerns for refugees’ safety in South Sudan
Recurrent fighting between the national armies of Sudan and South Sudan in the disputed Lake Jau area is fuelling concerns about the safety of Sudanese refugees in nearby Yida settlement.
UNHCR is in regular discussion with refugee leaders about the urgent need to relocate in order to avoid civilian casualties. Together with partners, UNHCR is providing basic assistance to more than 16,000 refugees who settled in Yida after fleeing violence in the Nuba Mountains.
In February we carried out a full registration of the population, a nutrition survey and a comprehensive measles vaccination for refugee children. The World Food Programme is distributing food rations, MSF and CARE are operating health services whilst the Samaritans and the ICRC provide clean water and sanitation facilities.
UNHCR considers that in the long-term, Yida refugee settlement is not a safe location for refugees due to its proximity to the volatile border zone. The South Sudanese authorities are also urging refugee leaders to relocate. However, refugee leaders say they prefer to stay close to their homes in the Nuba Mountains. But the security situation remains precarious: Yida is near to a heavily militarized zone with recurrent fighting and bombing. In recent months, Yida itself has come under aerial attack, causing refugees to flee into the bush. We fear that future rounds of border violence could cost refugees lives.
So far, 2,300 refugees have relocated southwards to safer sites, where UNHCR is providing them with food, water, shelter, sanitation and health care. Refugee leaders agreed to relocate children, together with their carers and teachers. 450 local and refugee children are currently attending primary school together in Nyeel, where the authorities have provided land for cultivation. Seeds and tools have been distributed to refugee families for farming.
Meanwhile, in Upper Nile state, where the refugee influx is continuing, relocation from border zones is ongoing. 86,000 Sudanese refugees fleeing attacks in Blue Nile state have relocated to the safety of formal sites in Doro and Jammam. UNHCR is conducting monitoring missions to find and relocate new arrivals to the settlements, where humanitarian assistance is provided.
In total more than 105,000 Sudanese refugees from Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states have fled to South Sudan and a further 30,000 refugees have fled Blue Nile into Ethiopia.