First, they became independent from Khartoum. Now over 55,000 South Sudanese flee to Sudan in three months

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011, but two years later it descended into a brutal civil war that has killed tens of thousands

AS many as 55,000 South Sudanese have fled to neighbouring Sudan since January, escaping conflict and food shortages at a rate of almost 1,000 per day, the United Nations said Thursday.

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011, but two years later it descended into a brutal civil war that has killed tens of thousands of civilians.

“The influx of South Sudanese into East Darfur, South Darfur and West Kordofan continues, with an estimated 55,500 people having arrived in the country since the end of January 2016, according to aid organisations,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its weekly bulletin.

The new arrivals fled because of “food insecurity, as a result of armed conflict, the failure of the agricultural season,” OCHA said.

Some 44,000 of the South Sudanese have crossed into Sudan’s restive Darfur region.

In all, as many as 222,000 South Sudanese may have sought refuge in Sudan since the start of the civil war nearly two and a half years ago, the UN says.

Until recently, the Sudanese government did not give them the same status as refugees, according them many of the same rights and benefits as Sudanese citizens.

But Khartoum ended that policy last month and said South Sudanese should be classified as “foreigners” over Juba’s alleged support for rebels battling Sudanese troops in the border region.

One of the world’s least developed nations, South Sudan erupted into conflict in December 2013, pitting President Salva Kiir against his former deputy Riek Machar.

The conflict has been marked by human rights abuses, attacks on civilians, ethnic massacres and widespread rape.

At least 50,000 people have been killed, 2.4 million have been forced from their homes and 2.8 million need emergency food to survive.

Fighting has continued despite an August peace agreement.

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