The flow of South Sudan refugees to neighbouring countries is increasing as insecurity worsens due to renewed fighting.
The government forces have been engaging rebels in Central and Western Equatoria states increasing the refugee flow to Uganda, while Gambela, in southwestern Ethiopia, neighbouring the Upper Nile State, has been receiving those fleeing in fear after the fresh hostility.
On October 3, the rebel forces are said to have fought with government troops in Central Equatoria seeking to take over Morobo County. However, Juba denied the claims saying there was no fight but mere skirmishes among local youth who fought over social issues.
Over 185,000 South Sudanese have fled to neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda, since return of fighting in the capital Juba in July.
Dr Riek Machar, the rebel leader, two weeks ago in Khartoum called for armed resistance against President Salva Kiir’s administration saying that he would mobilise his Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) forces to engage the government troops. Dr Machar accuses President Kiir of abrogating the August 2015 peace agreement.
In its latest report, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said a political solution is urgently needed to mitigate the rising suffering of civilians in South Sudan in the light of daily news of violence and worsening tensions.
“To address the growing needs of those forced to flee their homes and the host communities that receive them, the regional humanitarian response requires long-term planning, improved access to civilians caught up in the conflict, and sustained efforts to secure freedom of movement for those forced to flee across borders,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, the IOM East Africa regional director.
IOM notes that the influx of refugees in Ethiopia in recent months is putting a further strain on existing resources. The organisation is currently assisting in relocation of refugees from the transit centre in Pagak, on the South Sudan border, to camps in Jewi, Tierkidi and Kule in Gambella.
IOM says it has relocated nearly 24,000 refugees, mostly women and children since September 9.
The renewed violence since July 8 has sent tens of thousands fleeing South Sudan, putting the number of refugees from the war-ravaged country past the one million mark.