20 June 2012 - Humanitarian agencies were scrambling to provide basic needs like food, water, shelter and medical services to the displaced as the international community marked World Refugee Day today.
More than a million people from Sudan, Côte d'Ivoire, Libya, Mali, Somalia and Syria have fled their homes in the last 18 months due to a wave of conflicts, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted in his message to commemorate the Day.
“These numbers represent far more than statistics; they are individuals and families whose lives have been upended, whose communities have been destroyed, and whose future remains uncertain,” Mr. Ban said.
Even as it grapples with its own returnees, South Sudan is providing refuge to thousands of men, women and children fleeing the conflict between rebels and the Khartoum government.
UNHCR anticipated that about 75,000 refugees from Sudan would seek refuge in Upper Nile State, but already there are over 105,000 in three different refugee camps (Yusuf Batil, Jamma and Doro), with another 15,000 expected to cross the border in coming days.
New arrivals to Yusuf Batil settlement, Almacy Adab, his pregnant wife and four children, left their village in Blue Nile State (Sudan) for what turned to be a one-month walk.
“We have suffered very much on the way,” he remembered. “I have four children, I would put one on my back another on my shoulder as we walked. We had no food or water for the entire month. We have really suffered, but I thank God that we are here now.”
Yusuf Batil is the newest of the three refugee settlements and has a capacity of 30,000 -35,000 people.
Fred Cussigh, UNHCR head of office in Upper Nile, said conditions were far from perfect, despite spirited efforts by humanitarian agencies.
Dehydrated and hungry refugees arriving at the border face water shortages and insecurity. It’s a race against time to move the dehydrated from the transit sites along the border area to camps such as Yusuf Batil.
“We have to admit it is not a state of the art relocation, it’s a bit of an evacuation, let’s put it as it is,” Mr. Cussigh said. “But for us it is key to move people as soon as possible because the conditions as not good where they are.”
UNHCR estimates that the cost of meeting refugees’ immediate needs will be $40 million.
“World Refugee Day is a moment to remember all those affected, and a time to intensify our support,” Secretary-General Ban said in his message. “Despite budget constraints everywhere, we must not turn away from those in need. Refugees leave because they have no choice. We must choose to help.”