The U.N. refugee agency is airlifting emergency aid for 50,000 refugees who have fled conflict and food shortages in Sudan’s Blue Nile State. UNHCR says two daily rotations are bringing basic relief items from South Sudan's capital, Juba, to three remote camps housing the refugees.
The UNHCR says the airlift includes basic items such as kitchen sets, blankets, sleeping mats and mosquito nets. The plane also is bringing in equipment for drilling new boreholes. This is intended to increase the supply of clean water, which is severely lacking in the area.
From Juba, UNHCR Representative in South Sudan Mireille Girard, explains to journalists in Geneva that already difficult road conditions are being made worse by heavy rains.
“The logistics is a nightmare at the moment," she said. "With the onset of the rain, roads are becoming more and more impassable and some convoys are stranded in the mud for hours and this is a monumental challenge, perhaps the single biggest obstacle to delivering humanitarian assistance for the refugees in both a timely and cost effective manner.”
Girard says the UNHCR is working around the clock to try to get essential supplies into South Sudan before the rains render it impossible.
She says the refugees are in a critical state. She says they have been walking for days and weeks and when they arrive they are suffering exhaustion, dehydration and malnutrition. She says they come with few belongings and are in need of everything.
UNHCR spokesman in Geneva, Adrian Edwards says at the end of December, the UNHCR airlifted enough supplies to cover the needs of the refugees who had fled to South Sudan from South Kordofan and the Blue Nile.
He says this was sufficient until two months ago, when escalating fighting in Sudan resulted in a new heavy influx of refugees into South Sudan.
“With the security and humanitarian conditions deteriorating in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, a growing number of Sudanese have been seeking refuge in South Sudan, exceeding by some way our original planning assumptions," Edwards said. "In Upper Nile state for example, we planned for 75,000 refugees. Already there are around 105,000 people who have crossed from Blue Nile. Further west in Unity state, the Yida refugee settlement currently has more than 55,000 refugees. This is 15,000 more than a month ago.”
The UNHCR says it has reports of thousands of Sudanese on their way to the border. The agency says it has relocated about 10,000 refugees away from the dangerous border areas to safer camps inland. It says it is continuing to move them at a rate of about 2,000 a day.