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UN Assists Sudanese Refugees Fleeing Conflict

  • Joe DeCapua

Sudanese refugees at the Yida camp in Unity State in South Sudan, November 16, 2011. The refugees fled fighting in Sudan's Southern Kordofan States

Sudanese refugees at the Yida camp in Unity State in South Sudan, November 16, 2011. The refugees fled fighting in Sudan's Southern Kordofan States

The U.N. refugee agency continues emergency airlifts to aid thousands of refugees fleeing fighting in Sudan.

The fighting between government forces and rebels is taking place in two Sudanese states – Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan. As a result, many civilians have sought safety in South Sudan.

UNHCR spokesperson Vivian Tan said the refugee crisis is getting worse in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State.

“This situation is of growing concern to us because we’re seeing hundreds of people arriving every day into the Upper Nile State from Blue Nile State. And these people are in desperate condition. They’ve walked for weeks to get to south Sudan. They say they’ve fled in anticipation of attacks in Blue Nile State. And they’re desperate for food, water, for shelter,” she said.

Doro and Il Fug

Most of the refugees have gathered in the village of Doro in Maban County, far from the border.

“The estimated numbers are between 28- and 31,000 refugees there now. They’ve started building more durable shelters because in the beginning they were sort of scattered in the area living in makeshift shelters. We’ve allocated land for them. That’s a camp in progress. We’ve completed part of it, a section called Doro One, and we’re working on a section called Doro Two, which is an extension of it,” he said.

However, Tan said the top priority is to assist 15 to 20,000 refugees near Il Fug, very close to the Sudan border.

“The challenges are many, including bad roads, which are preventing us from reaching some of these refugees. And also just other logistical problems, like trying to fly in and truck in as many supplies as possible. Another problem that we’re facing is the presence of landmines and unexploded ordinance, which is affecting both road access and the establishment of camps in that area,” he said.

Despite that, UNHCR has managed to begin moving them further from the border to a camp called Jemam.

Other hot spot

Meanwhile, the U.N. agency is also helping more than 20,000 refugees from Southern Kordofan State. They’ve crossed the border into South Sudan’s Unity State.

“There’s an area called Yida where many of these refugees have settled. Again it’s close to the border and it’s of great concern because it’s actually come under attack before. We’ve been trying to persuade these refugees to move further inland south for several months now. But they don’t want to move. So that’s a big challenge for us because any move that they make has to be voluntary,” he said.

UNHCR airlifts began about a week ago, carrying $10 million worth of emergency supplies, including plastic sheets, buckets, kitchen sets and tents.