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Refugee Crisis in South Sudan

  • Joe DeCapua

Refugee camp in the Village of Doro in Maban County in South Sudan's Upper Nile State.

Refugee camp in the Village of Doro in Maban County in South Sudan's Upper Nile State.

The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders is reporting a refugee crisis in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State. It says 60 thousand people have fled fighting just across the border in Sudan.

The group, also known as MSF, says more than 30,000 of the refugees are in a camp in the village of Doro in Upper Nile State. That’s about 50 kilometers or so from the border. The rest are in Il Fug, which is just four kilometers from the border. They escaped fighting between government forces and the rebel SPLA North.

Bad and getting worse

“The influx is not stopping. Every day, we see people arriving on camels, by foot, on donkey carts, by trucks. Whatever they have. They arrive every day, with some peaks up to more than 1,000 per day,” said Jean Pierre Amigo, MSF field coordinator in Maban County, who spoke by satellite phone about the situation.

While humanitarian access to Doro is relatively easy, that’s not the case for Il Fug.

“The road is very, very bad. That’s the major problem. And then it’s also a question of security as it is not normal to have such a concentration of refugees so near to the border. And the proximity of the border may give risks to them,” he said.

An MSF medical team recently spent three days in Il Fug and conducted 700 examinations.

“We found more than 400 children with malnutrition. In these 400 children, more than 100 were severely malnourished. And such figures are really alarming and clearly show that we are in a real emergency,” said Amigo.

Medical teams also found numerous cases of malaria and diarrhea and respiratory and eye infections. In addition, many of the refugees have chronic health problems, indicating they did not have access to health care in Blue Nile State.

What’s more, drinking water is so scarce in Il Fug that Doctors Without Borders is setting up a water treatment unit there. Drinking water is also in short supply in Doro.

Immediate evacuations needed

Amigo said among those treated in Il Fug was a woman who had been shot five times in the back, as well as in her right arm and fingers. He says she is about 70 years old and was unable to escape when ground forces attacked her village. Her family also reported planes bombing the area.

“The priority is to use trucks to relocate by trucks the 20,000 refugees in Il Fug more in the south. And this process must not start tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, but right now,” he said.

MSF said in some cases, the Sudanese refugees walked for weeks to reach safety in South Sudan.

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