Food distribution at refugee site in Upper Nile State, South Sudan. Credit: WFP/Ahnna Gudmunds
As the rains subside, there could be a significant increase in the number of Sudanese refugees crossing into South Sudan, warn aid organizations.
Humanitarian organizations have reported that up to 40,000 refugees affected by conflict and food shortages in Sudan could arrive in South Sudan by the end of the year, after the heavy rains and flooding subside.
Since the conflict broke out in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile regions in 2011, over 170,000 refugees have fled to South Sudan’s Unity and Upper Nile States in search of safety. At the height of the crisis in May 2012, up to 32,000 people crossed into the Upper Nile’s Maban County within just a few days. Many arrived malnourished and exhausted, having walked for weeks without food or clean water.
Heavy rainfall and flooding in August led to a decrease in the number of refugees crossing into South Sudan, as most border areas became impassable. But aid workers expect the influx of refugees to increase when the rains subside in November.
“The crisis is certainly not over. We anticipate that up to 350,000 Sudanese will be hosted in South Sudan by the end of 2013,” said OCHA’s Operations Director, John Ging
, who visited refugee camps in South Sudan last month.
So far, seven settlements have been established in areas where the refugees are concentrated, and aid agencies are providing food, shelter, medicine, water and sanitation to those in need. Malnutrition and disease outbreaks have led to a scale up in health, nutrition and hygiene programmes. Humanitarian partners continue to work around the clock to provide emergency assistance to the growing number of refugees.
“While much progress has been made in scaling up assistance to the current refugee population, there is no money in the pot to provide the new refugees with the life-saving services such as emergency food, water and medicine,” said Mr. Ging.
UN agencies and humanitarian partners have asked for US$20 million to maintain their current operations and increase their efforts to respond to the new refugees until the end of the year. With the funding, they can provide life-saving aid and set up additional settlements to host more people.
“Relief organizations predict that refugees who arrive over the coming months will also be weaker and more malnourished because of prolonged food insecurity in Sudan,” added Mr. Ging.
September saw an increase in the number of malnourished children under age 5 among the new refugees who arrived from Southern Kordofan.
Reporting by OCHA/ South Sudan