Fairfield, Conn. (July 22, 2016) - More than 2,000 refugees are arriving in Northern Uganda daily after fleeing the on-going threat of violence in war-torn South Sudan. 90% of the people crossing are women and children, including vulnerable mothers with newborn babies.
Save the Children aid worker at the border, Justine Abenaitwe, said: "We’ve seen extremely vulnerable children coming into Uganda – many of whom have been forced to sleep outside because of the onset of heavy seasonal rains. The daily average has increased nearly ten-fold from the usual 200–300 refugees who were crossing before the fighting broke out in South Sudan less than two weeks ago.
"We are deeply concerned about the escalating numbers of unaccompanied and separated children who have made the journey alone and are susceptible to neglect or abuse. Even without the risk of being killed in the conflict, South Sudan is statistically the worst place in the world to be a child. Half the children are not in school."
Most refugees are coming from Eastern Equatoria state in addition to smaller numbers from Juba, with renewed sporadic fighting and hunger cited as the main reasons for flight. In the first five months of the year, the number of severely malnourished children admitted to Save the Children centers has tripled in comparison to the same period last year.
"These people only got a chance to leave South Sudan when the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF), crossed into South Sudan to evacuate Ugandan traders. That is when civilian vehicles, which had been waiting in hiding, joined the secure convoy and lone travelers ran and hopped onto some of the trucks," says Abenaitwe.
"In just three hours on Tuesday afternoon, a total of 4,149 South Sudanese refugees, mainly women and children, entered the Ugandan town of Elegu on the border with South Sudan. One refugee told us that many South Sudanese men are staying in the country to fight, including boys as young as 13 years old."
Thousands of people are being relocated to camps and reception centers and the number of new arrivals is expected to rise in the coming days.
Save the Children is currently working on the construction of Child Friendly Spaces including one on two acres of land in Pagirinya where three to six-year-olds will come for school lessons; the provision of clothes, blankets, hygiene kits, mosquito nets and basic cooking utensils; the sensitization of refugees regarding child protection issues; and registration and case management for separated and un accompanied children.
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Note to Editors:
• Save the Children Stabilization centers support severely malnourish children. The numbers have increased from just over 400 to well over 1600.