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South Sudan Fighting Sees More Refugees Fleeing into Uganda than in the First 6 Months of 2016

Fighting in South Sudan that broke out on 8 July between rival factions loyal to Salva Kiir and Riek Machar has to date forced 37,890 people to flee the country to Uganda. To put this in context: In the past three weeks there have been more refugee arrivals in Uganda than in the entire first six months of 2016 (33,838).

Yesterday (25 July) an estimated 2,442 refugees were received in Uganda from South Sudan. 1,213 crossed at the Elugu Border Point in Amuru, 247 in Moyo, 57 in Lamwo, and 370 in Oraba. Another 555 were received in Kiryandongo Settlement. The majority of arrivals – more than 90 per cent are women and children. People are coming from South Sudan’s Eastern Equatoria region, as well as Juba and other areas of the country. 

Inside South Sudan the intensity of the violence has subsided since early July, but the security situation remains volatile. The new arrivals in Uganda are reporting ongoing fighting as well as looting by armed militias, burning down of homes, and murders of civilians. Some of the women and children told us they were separated from their husbands or fathers by armed groups, who are reportedly forcibly recruiting men into their ranks and preventing them from crossing the border.  

The situation is extremely worrying. Daily arrivals were averaging around 1,500 ten days ago but have risen to over 4,000 in the past week. Further surges in arrivals are a real possibility.    

The influx is putting serious strain on the capacity of collection points, and transit and reception centres, which are too small for the growing number of arrivals. During the course of the weekend, humanitarian organisations worked to decongest the collection points, as well as installing temporary shelters to increase capacities. UNHCR has deployed additional staff, trucks and buses to assist. 

At its peak, more than 11,000 refugees were staying in Elegu, northern Uganda, in a compound equipped to shelter only 1,000 people. Over the course of the weekend, the centre was significantly decongested, with just 300 people sleeping there last night. Many of the refugees have been moved to the Nyumanzi Transit Centre, where they are receiving hot meals, water, shelter and other life-saving assistance, while others have been taken to expanded reception centres in Pagirinya. 

The management and expansion of reception facilities as well as the opening of a new settlement area remain key priorities. A new settlement area has been identified in Yumbe district that looks set to have the capacity to potentially host up to 100,000 people. Temporary communal shelters are also being constructed to accommodate the continuing arrivals. 

The humanitarian response to the influx of South Sudanese refugees is sorely lacking due to severe underfunding. The inter-agency appeal is only funded at 17 per cent, which is constraining UNHCR and its partners to provide emergency and life-saving activities only and causing limitations to the full breadth of humanitarian assistance that can be offered.

South Sudan’s conflict, which erupted in December 2013, has produced one of the world’s worst displacement situations with immense suffering. Inside South Sudan, some 1.69 million people are displaced internally, while outside the country there are now 831,582 South Sudanese refugees, mainly in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Uganda.

Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).