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Special Reports

South Sudan fighting forces thousands to flee into neighbouring DRC

The recent upsurge of fighting between local groups, known as the "Arrow Boys", and the South Sudanese army (SPLA) in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria state has displaced over 4,000 people into a remote region of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported.

In a report it released on Friday from Geneva, two UNHCR teams have so far this week registered 3,464 newly arrived refugees in areas near the border in DRC’s Dungu territory. They also report that 1,206 Congolese refugees, previously in South Sudan, have fled to the same area as a result of the fighting.

“Ezo settlement in South Sudan, which was originally home to nearly 3,300 Congolese refugees, is now virtually empty, with the remaining refugee families having fled to nearby fields,” partly reads the UNHCR report extended to Sudan Tribune on Friday.

It said registration in the DRC was ongoing in areas along the border and more arrivals were being reported with difficulties, saying UNHCR’s nearest office is some 400 km away in Bunia, and it took their teams several days to reach the localities where refugees were.

“Ninety per cent of the South Sudanese refugees are women and children. Some had walked for three days, carrying only their most important belongings. Most men have stayed behind in South Sudan,” the report says.

It said while some refugees have been sleeping in the open or in abandoned huts without roofing, most are being sheltered by local families, among them former Sudanese refugees from earlier conflicts. UNHCR’s office in the area had also distributed plastic sheeting for 409 people.

Refugees told UNHCR that their most urgent needs are shelter, food and medical care. The nearest hospital is about 80 kilometres away. Further assessments, it said, are needed to help determine the support needed as many said they will not return to South Sudan if there is no peace.

South Sudan’s conflict erupted in Juba two years ago this month, killing tens of thousands, mainly civilians. It has so far forced 2.3 million people to flee their homes, 650,000 of these across borders as refugees and 1.65 million displaced inside the country.

Most of the refugees are in Ethiopia with 226,000 in number, Sudan 198,000, Uganda 172,000 and Kenya 49,000. Even with these conditions, South Sudan continues to host 265,701 refugees from the South Kordofan and Blue Nile areas of neighbouring Sudan.

A peace agreement has been signed between president Salva Kiir’s government and the armed opposition faction led by former vice president, Riek Machar, to restore peace and security to the country. Its implementation has however faced other obstacles including political and security violations, with fighting ongoing in many areas.

Click here to read the Sudan Tribune report.

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