Originally published in Christian Telegraph
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has informed that the number of South Sudanese refugees fleeing the country has passed the 1 million mark, Christian Telegraph reports according to CISA News Africa.
With this milestone, South Sudan joins Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia as countries which have produced more than a million refugees, UNHCR spokesperson Leo Dobbs told a news briefing in Geneva on September 16.
“Most of those fleeing South Sudan are women and children. They include survivors of violent attacks, sexual assault, children that have been separated from their parents or travelled alone, the disabled, the elderly and people in need of urgent medical care,” Dobbs said.
He noted that more than three quarters – 143 164 – of the recent arrivals have crossed into Uganda, but a growing number of people have entered Ethiopia’s western Gambella region in the past week and others have been heading to Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR).
“These countries have commendably kept their doors open to the new arrivals,” Dobbs told reporters at the Palais des Nations.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, the recent violence in July was a major setback to peace efforts in South Sudan, coming as the fledgling country prepared to celebrate its fifth anniversary and amid a short-lived peace deal between supporters of President Salva Kiir and former First Vice President Riek Machar.
“The fighting has shattered hopes for a real breakthrough and triggered new waves of displacement and suffering, while humanitarian organizations are finding it very difficult for logistical, security and funding reasons to provide urgent protection and assistance to the hundreds of thousands in need, including 1.61 million internally displaced people,” Dobbs said.
Uganda is hosting the lion’s share of South Sudanese refugees, with 373 626, more than a third of them arriving since early July.
On September 15 Pope Francis met with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi to discuss the global displacement crisis.
Grandi expressed his deep appreciation for the Pope’s strong advocacy and support for refugees and internally displaced people and spoke of the unprecedented figure of 65 million forcibly displaced by conflict, persecution and violence.