At least one Sudanese refugee was injured and 14 others are missing following an air raid Monday in South Sudan. The U.N. refugee agency says the attack occurred in Upper Nile State where Sudanese refugees have sought refuge from violence back home.
Sudanese refugees have been crossing the border into South Sudan for many months. They’re fleeing fighting between Sudanese forces and the rebel SPLA-North Sector.
The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said since August, about 78,000 people have crossed the border from Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States. They’re receiving humanitarian assistance in South Sudan’s Upper Nile and Unity States.
UNHCR’s Vivian Tan said Monday’s air raid occurred about 10 kilometers inside South Sudan.
“The attacks happened in the morning local time in the border region called Elfoj in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State. Basically, several bombs were dropped from an Antonov plane and they fell on a refugee hosting site. And there were about 5,000 at the site at that time,” she said.
At the time of the attack, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration were preparing a 14 truck convoy to relocate some of the refugees.
“This is a site where back in late November [and] early December last year we started to see refugees converging after crossing over from the Blue Nile State. There were thousands of them in pretty desperate condition after walking for weeks with just the clothes on their backs often. So we wanted to get them as far away from the border as possible. And since earlier this month, we’ve been trying to move them to camps further inland. And this is what we were doing when the attacks happened,” she said.
Well over 11,000 refugees have been moved from Elfoj this month. Tan said the latest refugees to cross into South Sudan are in better shape than the earlier arrivals.
“UNHCR and our partners are working to provide them with food, non-food items, relief supplies like blankets, tents, plastic sheets. We’re also making sure that those who need medical attention get it as soon as possible,” she said.
There have been previous bombings of border areas where Sudanese refugees had gathered. Last November, attacks occurred in Upper Nile State’s Maban County and at the Yida refugee camp in Unity State.
The UNHCR is also raising concerns about Somali refugees in Ethiopia. It says this week there have been two suspected cases of polio at the Bur Amino camp in Dollo Ado and three more suspected cases in the surrounding community. Humanitarian agencies and health officials are now trying to confirm the outbreak. Polio is a highly contagious disease affecting mostly young children.
A nationwide anti-polio campaign had already been scheduled to begin in Ethiopia on January 27th. UNHCR says that campaign will be expanded to include all refugee camps in the country.