War in South Sudan could send extra refugees to Uganda in 2017- U.N. says
Set up in August in a semi-arid patch of scrubland in northern Uganda, the refugee camp in Bidi Bidi town is one of the world’s largest.
It is already home to 260,000 people from South Sudan and with 2,700 more arriving every day since November, authorities say it has reached its maximum capacity.
The U.N. projects an estimated 300,000 extra South Sudanese refugees will arrive in Uganda alone next year as violence in the young nation fuels one of the world’s biggest refugee exodus and stretches already struggling relief efforts.
Uganda now hosts about 600,000 refugees from South Sudan, with more than half arriving after July following the outbreak of fighting in Juba between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and former vice President Riek Machar.
That clash plunged South Sudan back into the grip of deadly violence just as it was starting to slowly emerge from a devastating two-year civil war.
War first broke out in South Sudan in December 2013 after political rivalry between Kiir and Machar, who was then sacked as vice president, developed into a military confrontation.
The conflict ended in a peace deal in August 2015 and Machar who had left South Sudan after the war started, subsequently returned to Juba in April this year but again fled the country amid the fighting in July.
He has since been replaced as vice president and has called on his supporters to mount an armed resistance.
United Nations High Commissioner spokesman in Uganda Charles Yaxley said that new arrivals at the camp spoke of their houses being burnt down.
Displaced civilians arriving in Uganda in recent months say they come mostly from South Sudan’s equatorial regions where waves of ethnic killings, sexual violence, looting, burning and opportunistic crime have turned villages and towns into death traps.
Buses ferry in new arrivals daily, some pulling into the giant reception centres in the dead of the night.
Doors fling open as the vehicles come to a complete halt then they start coming out: haggard and hungry young boys and girls, women cuddling small babies, old women. A few middle-aged men in between.
Joyce Kiden, 31, from the Pojulu tribe, who arrived at the camp this month told Reuters she left her village in Yei with her five children shortly her husband was abducted by government soldiers.
As the wave of South Sudanese refugees shows no signs of abating, UNHCR fears their ability to respond could be severely undermined as funds fall short.
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