Thousands of South Sudanese are pouring into already overcrowded U.N. camps in Bentiu and Malakal, amid fears that fighting could break out again in the two capitals of South Sudan's main oil producing states, an official said Thursday.
“The government forces and the opposition forces are often in very close proximity of each other, so I think there are many people who fear that things might erupt from one day to another," said the U.N. Mission in South Sudan's (UNMISS) head of Peace-building, Reintegration and Recovery, Derk Segaar.
The new influx of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to U.N. camps comes in spite of there being no new outbreaks of fighting on the ground.
"It's not because of wide-scale hostility this time but maybe the threat that violence might erupt that forces the IDPs to come to our site,” Segaar said.
Food insecurity worsening
Worsening food insecurity is also driving more IDPs to the camps, he said.
Markets in Bentiu, the capital of Unity state, and Malakal, capital of Upper Nile, have been razed or ransacked during seven months of fighting in South Sudan. As a result, food has become hard to find in both towns and prices have been driven up, Segaar said.
At the U.N.camps, on the other hand, some food is available to IDPs. But as the number of people sheltering at the camps has risen steadily as the conflict has ground on, food supplies in the camps have also been stretched.
People walk along dirt roads that have been turned into streams of mud by the rains, in the UNMISS base in Malakal, South Sudan, where 19,000 people have sought shelter from months of fighting.
More than 100,000 IDPs are sheltering in 10 U.N. camps across the country, Segaar said. With so many people flooding into the camps, the IDPs are living in increasingly cramped space with not enough sanitary facilities to adequately serve everyone.
The poor conditions at the camps have led to outbreaks of disease, including cholera. Six suspected cases of the diarrheal disease have been reported at the UNMISS camp in Bentiu.
UNMISS is working with humanitarian organizations to improve conditions inside existing Protection of Civilian sites and is setting up new sites to decongest the overcrowded camps, none of which was intended to house thousands of people.