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A million children displaced in South Sudan conflict

1 September 20170 comments

One million children who are refugees from the conflict in South Sudan are now sheltering in Uganda, according to the United Nations.

This staggering statistic is a grim milestone in what has become the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis sparked by a brutal, barbaric and unrelenting conflict.

Ugandan officials say they are overwhelmed by the flow of people fleeing South Sudan’s civil war as the UNHCR urges the international community to donate more humanitarian assistance.

Around 1,800 South Sudanese citizens have been arriving in Uganda each day over the past year, the UNHCR says.

Another million or more South Sudanese are sheltering in Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Congo and Central African Republic.

The number of people fleeing jumped after deadly fighting again erupted in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, in July last year.

“Recent arrivals continue to speak of barbaric violence, with armed groups reportedly burning down houses with civilians inside, people being killed in front of family members, sexual assaults of women and girls and kidnapping of boys for forced conscription,” the UNHCR’s statement said.

“With refugees still arriving in their thousands, the amount of aid we are able to deliver is increasingly falling short,” it said.

A fundraising summit hosted by Uganda in June raised only a fraction of the $US2 billion that Ugandan officials have said is needed to sufficiently look after the refugees and the communities hosting them.

NGO Amnesty International says the one million milestone should serve as a wake-up call to the international community that more is needed from them.

Most of the refugees are women and children fleeing violence, often along ethnic lines, since the world’s newest country descended into internal conflict in December 2013.

Ugandan government and aid agency officials warn the influx is straining the country’s ability to be generous to the refugees, who often are given small plots of land for building temporary shelters and planting crops when they arrive.

The largest of the settlements hosting refugees from South Sudan, Bidi Bidi, is roughly 230 square kilometers.

The World Food Program has cut food rations for some refugees amid funding shortages.

And UNHCR says at least $US674 million is needed to support South Sudanese refugees in Uganda this year, although only a fifth of that amount has been received.

Fighting continues in many parts of South Sudan despite multiple cease-fire agreements.

Both sides have committed serious rights violations, including murder and rape, against civilians, according to UN investigators.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist