Growing insecurity triggers new South Sudan displacement

GENEVA, Jan 8 (UNHCR) – The UN Refugee Agency is increasingly concerned at recent growing insecurity in South Sudan’s southern state of Western Equatoria and its serious impact on the civilian population there.

UNHCR cautioned that localized fighting between armed groups and government soldiers and an apparent breakdown in law and order are being reported in and near Yambio, some 300 kilometres west of Juba.

“Sporadic gunfire is commonplace, and there has also been an increase in crime involving car-jackings, attacks on government property, looting of civilian homes and sexual assaults reportedly by armed youth,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said in a briefing to reporters in Geneva on Friday (January 8).

A recent UN mission to Yambio found nearly 200 houses burnt down in the neighbourhood of Ikpiro and several hundred others looted. People have taken refuge in the town centre or moved to nearby villages, Edwards said, adding that UN estimates put the number of people displaced in Western Equatoria’s Yambio and Tambura counties at 15,000 since the start of December.

The violence is also driving people to flee their homes and head hundreds of kilometres to the south-east into neighbouring Uganda, where 500 refugees have been registered every day since the beginning of this week – a quadrupling in recent numbers. As well as the violence, refugees cite food insecurity due to failed crops as a reason for their flight.