South Sudan: more than 120,000 flee fighting

United Nations issues urgent request for $166m to deal with humanitarian fallout from violent power struggle

At least 121,600 people have fled their homes in South Sudan amid political violence but the total number is likely to be much higher, according to the UN, which has urgently requested $166m (£100m) from donors to deal with the humanitarian crisis.

The number of internally displaced people in the capital of Juba has reached an estimated 25,000 people alone since a power struggle erupted in mid-December. About 63,000 people have sought refuge at UN peacekeeping bases, mainly in Juba, Bor, Malakal, Bentiu and Pariang.

“This is an extremely difficult time for the people of this new nation, and it is crucial that aid agencies have the resources they need to save lives in the coming months,” said Toby Lanzer, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator in South Sudan. “There are at least 90,000 people who have been displaced in the past 10 days.”

UN officials are particularly worried about those in and around the town of Bor, in Jonglei state, where fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, has been particularly intense. Some UN officials have returned to Bor after all aid workers were evacuated on 23 December to assess conditions for the 15,000 people who fled to the UN base.

There are few toilets within the site and limited access to clean water. Food and shelter are urgently needed amid unconfirmed reports that a UN World Food Programme warehouse has been looted. Aid agencies have been unable to reach the warehouse because of the tension in Bor.

There is concern over the risk of disease spreading from the large number of bodies left in the open near the base after heavy fighting for control of the town. Public health is also a concern at UN bases in Unity state, where three cases of measles have been reported, and Upper Nile state.

In Juba, water and sanitation at the two UN bases has improved and clinics are providing healthcare at both sites. But the worry of disease outbreaks, such as cholera, remains a concern. While six UN bases are providing shelter to civilians, several others have smaller numbers within their perimeter.

Outside UN bases, there are large groups of displaced people in Jonglei, Lakes, Warrap and Unity states. An estimated 45,000 people are in Awerial country in Lakes state, but aid agencies have been unable to reach this large group because of security fears.

Agencies have requested $166m from now until March 2014 to help meet the immediate needs of people affected by the crisis. This includes emergency programmes for some 200,000 refugees from Sudan.

“In Bor and Bentiu this week, I have seen just how badly the communities caught in violence need our help,” Lanzer said. “Our priorities are to stay, protect, and deliver. I hope that donors and compassionate people around the world act swiftly to give aid agencies the required resources to help the people of South Sudan at this critical juncture.”

The $166m represents the most urgently required resources from the overall $1.1bn programme set out by the aid community for 2014 in the world’s newest country.

The head of the UN mission in South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, has said “well over 1,000” people have been killed since the start of the violence on 15 December and that the casualty figures are likely to rise.

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