Refugee Numbers At Ajoung Thok Camp Increase

Nuba Mountains war refugee children at Kodok, Fashoda County. [File: Ariik Atekdit]

UNHCR spokesperson Tim Irwin said that more than 5,000 refugees are now living in Ajoung Thok camp six months after the site was opened with the aim of decongesting the overcrowded and insecure Yida settlement.

“With the arrival Friday 20 September of last of the three weekly relocation convoys from the Yida site, the population of Ajoung Thok stood at 5,024. A total of 139 refugees from Yida moved to Ajoung Thok during the course of the week,” he said.

Both the government of South Sudan and UNHCR consider the Yida site unsuitable for refugees due to its proximity to a militarized and contested border.

However since Ajoung Thok opened in March, refugees in Yida have been encouraged to move to the new site where improved services, such as schools and medical clinics, are available in which majority have turn up.

“Former residents of the Yida settlement now account for nearly half – 48 per cent – of Ajoung Thok’s population,” he said.

Irwin also added that there are also other refugees living in the new camp like refugees who recently fled fighting in Sudan’s South Kordofan state and proceeded directly to Ajoung Thok as well as those who came from the Nyeel and Pariang camps, which have now closed.

“As more refugees move to Ajoung Thok and see for themselves the improved living conditions, services and protection environment that is available there, we are confident that word will spread and even greater numbers of people living in Yida will appreciate the benefits to their children and themselves of relocating,” said UNHCR’s Assistant Representative for Protection Greg Balke.

The Yida site was spontaneously established in 2011 by refugees fleeing conflict in Sudan. Since its creation, the government, UNHCR and other humanitarian partners have been encouraging its residents to move to more secure areas.

However the Ajoung Thok camp which can accommodate up to 20,000 refugees was designed to provide an environment where protection could be more effectively delivered. 

The Catholic Diocese of Malakal has forwarded some assistance to the Sudanese Refugees from Nuba Mountains who have recently resettled in Lelo.

Tereza Akic Awan is the Chairperson of the Office of the Poor in the Catholic Church Diocese of Malakal said she was disturbed after listening to local radio programs with Sudanese Refugees screaming for the poor situation they have fallen in.

Over 1,000 Sudanese refugees from Nuba Mountains in Upper Nile state called for humanitarian organizations to assist their deteriorating situation.

Suleiman Balula Juma is the chief of the 1,655 families who have recently trekked a long distance from Warnie Locality in Nuba Mountains to start their new life in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state.

He said that their life situation is not encouraging urging for people of good will and organization to support Nuba people who have run away from death of war but in new horrible conditions.

Lelo Camp in Makal County seems not to have been registered to receive the possible services rendered by humanitarian organization.

UNHCR and the Government’s Commission for Refugee Affairs began relocating refugees in Kodok and Lelo in Upper Nile to Ajoung Thok camp in Unity State.

UNOCHA reported that after arrival to the new camp, refugees received a package of assistance including family plots, shelter and access to education and livelihood opportunities there.

UNOCHA said hunger was frequently cited as the cause of flight, after aerial bombardments and ground clashes over the past years that disrupted farming and led to food shortages. Many of the refugees showed signs of malnutrition when arriving in South Sudan.

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