March 19, 2017 (JUBA) – At least 1.6 million South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries to escape famine, fighting and drought, making the East African nation the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said.
- South Sudanese refugees fleeing violence in their home country wait to be transported to Uganda’s Arua district settlement camp on 6 January 2014 (Photo: AFP/Isaac Kasamani)
The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees described the rate of displacement from South Sudan as “alarming”, placing an impossible burden on the region.
Most of these refugees, according to UNHCR are in Uganda, which is hosting nearly half of all the refugees, estimated at 800,000 people.
Babar Baloch, a UNHCR spokesman, was quoted saying more than 2,800 people on average are fleeing into Uganda every day.
Most of the refugees, about 86% are women and children, he said.
“They come in quite a desperate situation, being affected by instability, fighting and famine,” Baloch told VOA.
“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,” he added.
The UNHCR official cited Bidi Bidi camp, one of four refugee settlements in Uganda, which 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 stressed.
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 U.N reports 4.8 million people inside the country are going hungry, with 100,000 facing famine.
The world body, Baloch said, has received only 8 percent of the $782 million it needs for its humanitarian operations this year, while UNHCR’s own appeal for Uganda is reportedly short by over $250 million.