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Fighting Threatens Further Displacement in South Sudan

  • Gabe Joselow

Displaced people walk around Tomping camp in Juba, where some 15,000 people who fled their homes are sheltered by the United Nations, Jan. 7, 2014.

Displaced people walk around Tomping camp in Juba, where some 15,000 people who fled their homes are sheltered by the United Nations, Jan. 7, 2014.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says recent fighting in South Sudan could significantly increase the number of displaced people. Many continue to flee the country as well, with most taking refuge in neighboring Uganda.

According to the U.N., more than 200,000 people have been displaced across South Sudan since violence began December 15, with the numbers increasing by the day.

Recent fighting has centered around the town of Bor, capital of Jonglei State, and in some areas of oil-producing Unity State.

A UNHCR spokesman for South Sudan, Kisut Gebre Egziabher, says the violence is likely to force more people to leave their homes.

“As fighting is raging in Bor and Bentiu areas, we might see also a significant number of more displaced over the coming couple of days,” said Kisut Gebre Egziabher.

Some 60,000 of those internally displaced have sought shelter at U.N. bases in the country, some of which have come under attack.

UNHCR has already reduced its staff in the country due to the security threat and is now distributing 45 days worth of food - up from the normal 30 days worth - in case they are forced to scale down further.

Meantime, Uganda has taken the bulk of some 40,000 refugees who have fled the country, with more coming each day.

“Uganda in particular is receiving over the last couple of days, the country is receiving 2,500 refugees a day. You can imagine how overwhelming this can be for the already overwhelmed refugee operation in that country,” said Kisut Gebre Egziabher.

Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan are also seeing an influx of refugees.

The violence, which broke out last month, stems from a political rivalry between President Salva Kiir and his former vice president Riek Machar.

The conflict has divided the military against itself, with factions loyal to the two political leaders battling for control of territory around the country. More than 1,000 people have been killed since hostilities began.

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