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Conflict, Hunger Force More People to Flee in South Sudan

  • Lisa Schlein

The U.N. refugee agency reports heavy fighting and lack of food in two South Sudanese states are forcing more people to flee their homes. The UNHCR says more than 100,000 people have been displaced during the past two months, adding to those already displaced inside and outside the country.

A surge of fighting between South Sudan's government and rebel forces has uprooted tens of thousands of people in Unity and Upper Nile states since the start of April.

It also has forced aid organizations in the region to withdraw. As a consequence, the U.N. refugee agency reports 650,000 people have not received critical humanitarian aid.

UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said there was a sharp increase in the number of people fleeing to neighboring Sudan, Ethiopia, and Uganda in May. He said about 6,000 South Sudanese arrived last week in Sudan’s White Nile and South Kordofan states.

Violence, scarce food

Refugees cite the increased fighting and lack of food as main reasons for fleeing their homes.

Edwards told VOA that since South Sudan erupted in conflict in December 2013, there have been a number of major displacements.

“We are in another tragic wave, which once again is having its greatest impact on civilians. There are pressures growing, of course, on surrounding states," he said. "Once again, as this happens, we have 2 million people who are either internally displaced or refugees. We have almost 4 million people who are without sufficient food. So the pressures on the population, on civilians in South Sudan and surrounding countries cannot be overstated.”

Also last month, the government of President Salva Kiir expelled the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer.

The head of U.N. information in Geneva, Ahmed Fawzi, said the United Nations has not been informed about the reasons for this action.

“The situation is quite dire and that is why the Secretary-General himself has condemned the government’s decision to expel the deputy head of mission in South Sudan," said Fawzi. "His replacement has already been nominated last month, had been nominated. He was about to end his term anyway and his replacement had been nominated. And, we hope he will be allowed to deploy.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon nominated Eugene Owusu of Ghana as Lanzer's successor on May 29.

Ban is urging South Sudan to cooperate fully with all U.N. agencies in the country.

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