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UN agency alarmed by health situation for refugees in South Sudan

08-25-2012 05:55 BJT

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations refugee agency on Friday sounded alarm about the health situation for some 170,000 refugees spread out across two states in South Sudan, the youngest country in the world.

"The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says that it is alarmed by the health situation of the 170,000 Sudanese refugees living in camps and settlements across South Sudan's Unity and Upper Nile states," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said at a daily news briefing here.

These refugees came from Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, fleeing conflict and food shortages there.

"Given the rain and cold, the (UN) Agency is seeing refugees suffering from respiratory tract infections, diarrhea and malaria, " Nesirky noted. "It adds that nearly half of the refugees in Upper Nile are under the age of 11, and it is this group that is suffering the most."

"Their mothers and other caregivers are also often weak and cannot look after them properly," he added.

"This is an unusually large proportion in refugee emergencies, and this age group is suffering the most," Adrian Edwards, the UNHCR spokesperson, also told reporters in Geneva on Friday.

In Yusuf Batil, a camp hosting 34,000 Sudanese from the Blue Nile state, 15 percent of the children under five -- nearly 1,600 in number -- are severely malnourished. They are now being treated under a special health restoration program, said the spokesperson.

Earlier this month, the UNHCR and its partners launched an extensive health and hygiene program.

"We are trying to impress upon refugees the importance of fundamentals like hand-washing, collecting water in clean buckets and jerry-cans and not defecating in the open," Edwards said, adding that the agency and its partners are continuing to build latrines in all five camps in an attempt to keep pace with new arrivals.

It is not easy to maintain adequate hygiene and sanitation, with the number of refugees having increased dramatically from 99, 000 in April to the current level of almost 170,000, the spokesperson noted.

Meanwhile, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Friday called on all South Sudanese institutions and actors engaged in stabilizing the Jonglei state to take immediate action to safeguard recent gains in the peace process, stem human rights violations in Pibor County and hold perpetrators to account.

There have been significant improvements in the security situation in the Jonglei state since the inter-communal violence there claimed hundreds of lives at the beginning of this year, according to a statement issued by UNMISS.

"Commendable efforts have been made to increase the security and protection of people and their property," the UN Mission said. "However, UNMISS is concerned by the recent increase in serious human rights violations allegedly committed by some undisciplined elements within the South Sudanese Army (SPLA) in Pibor County."

"Failure to identify those suspected of human rights abuses, carry out full investigations in all cases, and demonstrate that justice is being done for the victims, will undermine the confidence and collaboration of local communities in the disarmament process, and risks derailing the peace process," UNMISS said.

A report released by UNMISS in June documented crimes and human rights violations that took place during the cycle of attacks between the Murle and Lou Nuer ethnic groups in 2011 and early 2012.

The violence led to nearly 900 deaths, incidents of abductions of women and children, the destruction of homes and the displacement of thousands of civilians, according to the report.

Editor:James |Source: Xinhua

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