GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - The U.N. refugee agency reports more than 2.25 million South Sudanese have become displaced since fighting between government and rebel forces erupted in December 2013. It says the number of internally displaced and refugees is growing as fighting continues.
As South Sudan marks its fourth anniversary of independence, people are being forced every day to flee their homes because of this young country’s raging civil war.
The United Nations reports 1.5 million people are internally displaced and more than 730,000 people have sought refuge in four neighboring countries.
Meanwhile, nearly 250,000 Sudanese refugees have fled into South Sudan to escape fighting in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
U.N. refugee spokesman Adrian Edwards said no political end to this conflict was in sight.
“Recent weeks have seen an escalation of violence in Unity and Upper Nile," he said. "Heavy fighting has forced tens of thousands of people to flee to the bush and swamplands, to areas that are often difficult to reach. This and a volatile and insecure situation is making humanitarian access extremely difficult. Ongoing hostilities and reported increase in human rights violations and abuses have contributed to additional displacement.”
UNHCR reports 180 South Sudanese refugees arrive in Ethiopia each day, and the country is already hosting about 425,000 refugees. Hundreds of thousands of others have sought refuge in Sudan, Uganda and Kenya.
Meanwhile, cholera, which broke out last month in South Sudan's capital, Juba, has spread to the city of Bor. The U.N. children’s fund reports more than 700 cholera cases have claimed 32 lives.
According to UNICEF spokesman Christof Boulierac, one in five of these deaths was children under age 5.
“If the current outbreak spreads beyond current locations, especially into the states affected by conflict, the lack of functioning health facilities could lead to a devastating loss of life," he said. "Currently, 184 health facilities have been closed or destroyed in conflict-affected areas.”
Boulierac said aid agencies were racing against time to prevent the spread of cholera up the Nile River in South Sudan, especially during the rainy season. UNICEF’s priority, he added, was to reach vulnerable children with urgently needed clean water and vaccinations against the deadly disease.
He said more than 100,000 people, many of them children, have received oral cholera vaccines in civilian sites in Juba and Bentiu.