GENEVA - The U.N. refugee agency reports 1.6 million South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries to escape famine, fighting and drought, making South Sudan the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis
The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) calls the rate of displacement from South Sudan alarming, placing an impossible burden on the region. This is particularly true of Uganda, which is hosting nearly half of all the refugees, some 800,000 people.
UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch says more than 2,800 people on average are fleeing into Uganda every day. He told VOA most of the refugees, 86 percent, are women and children.
“They come in quite a desperate situation, being affected by instability, fighting and famine," Baloch said. "Food security is an issue. They arrive into settlements into northern Uganda. All the structures that we have been trying to put in place with the government in Uganda are overstretched.”
For example, Balloch noted Bidi Bidi camp, one of four refugee settlements in Uganda, currently shelters 272,000 refugees.
“With a low level of funding and host communities and the host government not having enough resources, it is making it quite an impossible task to help these desperate refugees, and that is the reason we are trying to sound this alarm,” he said.
South Sudan’s civil war, which erupted more than three years ago, has displaced more than 3.5 million people, both inside and outside the country. The United Nations reports 4.8 million people inside the country are going hungry, with 100,000 facing famine.
Despite the bleak statistics, Balloch said South Sudan is not getting enough attention, nor is it getting enough resources. He said the U.N. has received only 8 percent of the $782 million it needs for its humanitarian operations this year.
He said the UNHCR’s own appeal for Uganda is short by more than $250 million.