A rise in the number of refugees pouring into camps in Sudan’s Maban County could lead to conflict as a result of pressure on local residents, humanitarian officials have warned.
About 110,000 refugees escaping fighting in Sudan’s Kordofan and Blue Nile states have arrived in Maban so far.
Many in the crowded camps also face a major outbreak of water-borne diseases due to flooding and shortages of clean drinking water.
Twenty six people died from Hepatitis E in November while over 1,000 others were infected with the virus that’s contracted and spread through contaminated food and water.
Some host communities see the refugees as a threat to the already scarce resources available.
Refugees like Sadia al-Gali say that collecting firewood nearby to prepare the family’s meals for example is a challenge.
“Our safety here is better, but the community here are not welcoming. If we go to the forest they will fight us there and take away our axes because they don’t want us to cut down any trees, we tell them that we need to cut fire wood for cooking but they say no don’t cut, yet we are here as refugees,”she said.
In the meantime those living at the camp are trying to survive with the little they have, hoping things back home will get better soon so that they can return to their fields and businesses.
Some of the refugees are also engaging in income generating activities while at the camp, and are making pots and bricks for sale.
While on a recent tour of the Yusuf Batil camp in Maban county, the United Nation’s
Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan Toby Lanzer emphasized on the importance of refugees and the host communities working together to maintain refugee camps.
Lanzer also serves as the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General in South Sudan.
“The relationship between the refugees and the host communities will have to be managed carefully because it is putting a lot of pressure on Maban County. There are 110,000 people here today – it could be much, much more in the future unfortunately – and that added to environmental pressures, it adds to the pressures on the medical services and the education services, which are being offered by the host authorities by the Government of South Sudan. So all this needs to be very carefully managed and our commitment in the United Nations is to do just that,” said Lanzer.
A recent UNHCR report indicated that there are currently 112,379 refugees in Upper Nile, 112,020 of who are from Sudan. The report said humanitarian agencies had registered 86,174 arrivals in 2012.
The agency says it needs at least 20 million US dollars by the end of the year for its South Sudan operation after receiving only 40 percent of its appeal for 186 million US dollars.
The government says the number of refugees in South Sudan is expected to rise to about 350,000 in the coming year.