Six months since South Sudan’s independence, the world’s newest nation is struggling to cope with a major refugee crisis and massive internal displacement, international agency Oxfam said today.
Tens of thousands of people have fled violence in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan across the border in Sudan, and an estimated 60,000 people have also reportedly been affected by last week’s fighting in the South Sudan state of Jonglei.
Over 55,000 refugees have arrived in Upper Nile state in South Sudan in recent months, fleeing conflict in Sudan’s Blue Nile region. More people continue to arrive and are sheltering in newly established refugee camps where food and other essential services are in short supply. Oxfam is boosting its water and sanitation work for 25,000 of the new arrivals.
The worsening conflict along the border between Sudan and South Sudan has led to growing fears of a major food crisis, as insecurity has restricted local agriculture and limited aid and market supplies. Parts of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile are expected to reach emergency levels in early 2012, with early warning systems predicting that food insecurity will reach Phase 4 of 5 – one step below famine levels. Such a crisis is likely to force more refugees into South Sudan, Oxfam said. Around 20,000 people have already fled Southern Kordofan, and thousands more are displaced within the region. Due to conflict and insecurity, many of the rural areas on both sides of the new border remain inaccessible to humanitarian organisations.
“It is six months since South Sudan’s independence and there is much we should be celebrating. But the growing crisis along the border threatens to derail any progress. South Sudan is one of the poorest and least developed nations in the world, and the influx of refugees is placing enormous strain on already scarce resources,” said Fran Equiza, Oxfam’s Regional Director.
Oxfam called on all parties to the conflict to immediately cease hostilities and ensure humanitarian aid can reach all people in need.