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Years of gun fire and famine pushes South Sudanese to extreme

by Ronald Ssekandi ADJUMANI, Uganda (Xinhua) -- Over three years of gun fire and now famine is pushing South Sudanese to the edge leaving them with no option but to flee their motherland.

At several refugee reception centers in northern Uganda, thousands of South Sudanese queue to be registered as refugees.

According to the UN refugee agency, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an average of about 4,000 South Sudanese cross the border into Uganda seeking refuge.

"If famine continues, we should expect more people to come.

"More and more people are reporting that famine is one of the reasons they are leaving," Ajit Fernando, Deputy Representative UNHCR Uganda told Xinhua in an interview on Thursday.

At least here, according to humanitarian agencies, the refugees are assured of a regular meal as compared to back home where they were left to eating leaves in order to survive.

The UN last week announced that famine had broken out in South Sudan, warning that war and a collapsing economy have left some 100,000 people facing starvation and a further 1 million people are classified as being on the brink of famine.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, many families have exhausted every means they have to survive.

Many people who are predominantly farmers have lost their livestock, even their farming tools.

According to relief agencies, this situation is the worst hunger catastrophe since fighting erupted more than three years ago between rival forces - the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) loyal to President Salva Kiir and the SPLA in Opposition backing former First Vice-President Riek Machar.

Escaping the hunger pangs and fleeing to Uganda can only be a temporary measure. Humanitarian agencies in Uganda argue that their resources are stretched to the limit and are just struggling to fend for the swelling number of refugees in the country.

The country, according to UN figures, hosts over 1 million refugees mostly from neighboring South Sudan where fighting has persisted since late 2013.

The UN World Food Program (WFP) says while it is able to provide food and nutrition assistance to any number of refugees, there must be the necessary funding.

"Right now we have a funding shortfall of 60 million dollars through July, and needs have been rising quickly - we now require around 14 million dollars per month to meet the food needs of refugees in Uganda, which is double the monthly requirement of six months ago," Lydia Wamala, Public Information Officer WFP Uganda told Xinhua on Wednesday.

Because of the funding shortages, since August last year, the food aid agency reduced the size of food rations for refugees who arrived in the country before mid-2015, a reduction that affects about 200,000 people.

"So far we have managed to avoid needing to make further cuts since then, but just barely, and we cannot rule out having to make additional reductions unless we receive significant new funding," Wamala said.

The refugees are now at the mercy of the international community to come to their rescue. Recent appeals to the community have not yet yielded the desired results.

Last year humanitarian agencies and Uganda appealed for 1 billion U.S. dollars to enable them cater for the rising number of refuges. However since then, only 36 percent of the required money has been raised and yet the need is rising day by day.

Fernando argues that as funds for catering for the refugees are being sought, there should be patience noting that there is a massive refugee crisis in the world.

"We will not be able to do everything overnight but it is gradual. What we want to do is not lose what we have gained," he said.

The European Union (EU) on Thursday announced an additional 10 million euros to help address the refugee crisis in Uganda.

The money which is channeled through a project European Union Trust Fund will be used to improve the livelihood of the refugees in the long run.

The three-year project had already received 10 million euros.

"Uganda is not alone. Uganda can continue counting on the EU’s support to such a challenging endeavor," Michelle Labeeu, an official at the EU office here, said.


UN refugee agency opens new site in Uganda to host refugees from South Sudan

UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) -- The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has opened a new settlement area in northern Uganda to host thousands of refugees arriving from South Sudan, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters here Thursday.

"The new settlement was opened after another settlement opened in December 2016 quickly reached its capacity," Dujarric said at a daily news briefing.

The new settlement is expected to be able to accommodate up to 110,000 new arrivals in the weeks and months ahead, he said.

South Sudan is now Africa’s largest refugee crisis and the world’s third largest, only behind Syria and Afghanistan.

Uganda has started to feel the pinch of hosting an influx of refugees amid acute funding pressures and says international support is urgently needed to help it accommodate the refugees.

Uganda is hosting over one million refugees, half of them from neighboring South Sudan where fighting is still continuing.

On average 4,000 South Sudanese are said to cross the border daily into Uganda.

The East African country has gained global acknowledgment for its open refugee policy at a time when more and more countries are closing their doors to refugees who are fleeing for their lives.

The other refugees hosted in different parts of the country are mainly from neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi while some are from Eritrea and Ethiopia.

The World Food Program last year warned that it was going to be forced to cut food aid to refugees in the country further than the current 50 percent due to severe funding shortages.

Uganda, whose refugee resettlement process is said to be a model for other nations, now hosts one of the largest number of refugees in Africa, putting a significant burden on relief agencies, Ugandan authorities and local population.

UN says security key to revamping food basket of South Sudan

JUBA South Sudan(Xinhua) -- Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) David Shearer said on Thursday that improved security is essential to reinvigorating food production disrupted by fighting in former Western Equatoria region.

Shearer said a wide range of food products for the rest of the war-torn country came from the region, but production has slowed because farmers are no longer able to plant crops due to ongoing insecurity and displacement.

"Security is the key to getting farmers back to their land, security was also essential on the road network to allow trade and the distribution of agricultural products," Shearer said in a statement issued in Juba.

This came after the UN on Monday declared famine in parts of South Sudan, especially some 100,000 people believed to be starving in the northern Unity state, and a further one million on the brink of starvation while 5.5 million (40 percent) of the population are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

Shearer also lauded local authorities for their commitment to boost agricultural production and move towards self-sufficiency.

UNMISS hopes the imminent swearing-in of the new Governor of Gbudwe State will be an opportunity to reset and improve relations between local communities and government forces operating there.

The UNMISS Head also said he supports reconciliation efforts, especially to reintegrate young people into the community who had joined armed groups active in the area.

The region has of late experienced relative calm, since the renewed July clash spillover caused insecurity due to intermittent fighting between government troops (SPLA) and SPLA-in opposition (SPLA-IO) alongside armed groups like Arrow boys.

495,000 South Sudanese refugees present in Sudan: Sudanese official

KHARTOUM Sudan (Xinhua) -- A Sudanese official on Thursday announced that the number of South Sudanese refugees in Sudan so far has reached 495,000.

"Presently we have 495,000 South Sudanese refugees in Sudan, where they are distributed in Khartoum, White Nile, East Darfur, West Kordofan and South Kordofan states, and in less figures in South and North Darfur States," Hamad Al-Jizouli, Sudanese Commissioner for Refugees, said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua Thursday.

He expected the number of South Sudanese refugees in Sudan to increase due to the security tension in the south together with the South Sudan government’s declaration of famine in some parts of the country.

"The influxes of refugees are still continuing as they are related to the current reality of continued war and declaration of famine in South Sudan," he said.

He explained that the Sudanese Commission for Refugees and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) are providing the necessary services for the South Sudanese refugees in Sudan, saying "the biggest problem facing us is relating to registration of the South Sudanese refugees and giving them the refugee cards."

"A joint committee has been formed, where a tripartite agreement will be signed between the Sudanese commission for refugees, the Sudanese Interior Ministry and the UNHCR to reach consensus on a mechanism that enables us make the correct registration of South Sudan refugees," noted Al-Jizouli.

Sudan is generally hosting about two million refugees from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Chad, Somalia, Central Africa Republic, South Sudan, Yemen and Syria.

"We have three groups of refugees, the first group is present in official camps, the second inside towns and the third is a group of youths, the majority of them from Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia, and use Sudan as a crossing for immigration to Europe," he said.

"This third group is what really bothering us because it falls as prey to gangs of human trafficking and organizers of illegal immigration to European countries and Israel," noted Al-Jizouli.

The Sudanese refugee commissioner, meanwhile, explained that the number of the Syrian refugees in Sudan amounted to 110,000.

"We do not regard the Syrians as refugees due to Presidential directives to regard them as brothers and not refugees, where they have privileges as they are permitted to enter Sudan without visa," he said.

In the meantime, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan (OCHA) said in its most recent bulletin that over 65 percent of the South Sudanese refugees who arrived in Sudan are children, with many of them arriving with critical levels of malnutrition.

The UNHCR and partners anticipated the continued arrival of South Sudanese refugees into Sudan throughout 2017, "given the situation in South Sudan marked by localized fighting and critical levels of food insecurity in areas close to the Sudanese border."

The violent fighting which erupted in South Sudan in July last year following the collapse of the peace deal between the government and opposition forces caused more than 760,000 refugees to flee the country, with an average of 63,000 people monthly during the second half of the year.

In Aug. 15 last year, Sudan officially decided to treat the South Sudanese fleeing the war in their country as refugees, which opens the door for the UN to provide them with aid and fund aid programs.

Recently famine was officially declared in South Sudan.

The South Sudanese government and the UN said 100,000 people facing starvation, with one million people classified as being on the brink of famine.

The famine was attributed to many reasons including the civil war and collapse of the economy in the new-born state.


South Sudan hopes for strong Relations with both U.S. and U.N.




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