Fierce fighting at the border between Sudan and South Sudan is worsening an already grim humanitarian situation there, aid workers said Monday, with a surge of refugees arriving in overstretched camps.
In South Sudan’s Yida refugee camp ─ just one of several strung out along the volatile border ─ around 400 refugees are arriving every day, up from an average of 50 a day last week, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) aid agency said.
Those refugees are fleeing civil war and hunger in the Nuba mountains of Sudan’s Southern Kordofan state, an area close to where Sudan and South Sudan’s rival armies have been fighting in clashes that began last month.
There has been a “wave of refugees reaching the camp in crowded trucks and on foot,” IRC aid worker Elizabeth Pender told AFP from Yida refugee camp, some 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of the border with Sudan.
Sudanese warplanes have launched a series of bombing raids along disputed border areas in the South’s Unity State, with fighting escalating last week after Southern troops seized the Heglig oil field from Khartoum’s army.
“We’re preparing for thousands more arrivals,” Pender said, adding that those arriving said they were fleeing not only conflict but also growing hunger, with Khartoum’s soldiers blocking aid from the Nuba regions.
The influx has “worsened the humanitarian situation in the camp,” Pender said, warning that aid was already stretched for the 20,000 refugees there.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report late Sunday that refugees continued to flow into the South from conflict zones in Sudan.
“Rapid deterioration of the security situation in Unity State caused growing concern,” the report added.
More than 110,000 refugees have fled civil war in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states since fighting broke out there in June 2011, as rebels who were once part of South Sudan’s army battled Khartoum ahead of the South’s independence in July.
The civil war in Southern Kordofan between Khartoum and rebels is separate from direct clashes between the regular armies of Sudan and the South, but Juba is accused of backing the rebel fighters, claims it denies.
The United Nations said last week that clashes between Khartoum and Juba had forced thousands to flee.
Hundreds of thousands of citizens of each nation living in the other country are also facing uncertain futures after a deadline requiring them to formalize their status expired earlier this month.
“An estimated 500,000 South Sudanese need to legalize their status in Sudan, where they are no longer citizens. ... Obtaining the prerequisite South Sudanese documentation, however, has been nearly impossible in Sudan,” OCHA said.