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Thousands displaced by latest fighting on Sudan-South Sudan border

24 April 2012 – Some 35,000 people have been displaced by the recent fighting near the border between Sudan and South Sudan, the United Nations refugee agency said today, adding that new outbreaks of violence are putting refugees’ safety at risk.

Addressing the media in Geneva, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Adrian Edwards, said that people in border areas such as Heglig, Talodi and other parts of the state of South Kordofan, located in Sudan, had been displaced by the fighting, and noted that escalating hostilities are raising concerns about refugees’ safety.

Over the past month there have been continued aerial bombardments in South Sudan, the latest having occurred in Bentiu town in the country’s Unity state. UN senior officials have consistently called for a halt in hostilities to ensure civilian safety.

Mr. Edwards said UNHCR had registered an increase in the number of Sudanese refugees crossing the border, some of them “seriously malnourished.” In Yida, for example, more than 1,300 new arrivals were reported in the last four days, and average daily arrivals have tripled since February and March.

UNHCR has appealed to both governments to “do their utmost to avoid displaced civilians being placed in harm’s way, and to avoid actions that could displace more people,” Mr. Edwards said, adding that humanitarian agencies will continue to provide life-saving assistance to over 20,000 refugees in the region.

At the same press conference in Geneva, a spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP), Elizabeth Byrs, said that the food agency aims to distribute assistance to 2.7 million people facing food insecurity in South Sudan this year.

Ms. Byrs said the agency was focusing on prepositioning food in the country now that the rainy season had started, as many parts of the country will become increasingly inaccessible, and noted that the unstable security situation was affecting operations.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, today expressed her deep concern for the heavy toll that the clashes are having on children.

“Two 14-years old boys were killed and injured during aerial bombardments on a market in Rubkona, Unity State,” Ms. Coomaraswamy said. “Air raids in heavily populated areas killing and maiming children are grave breaches of international humanitarian law.”

Ms. Coomaraswamy called on the Sudanese Armed Forces to immediately stop the indiscriminate attacks. “Sudan and South Sudan should both refrain from further confrontation in an effort to spare innocent civilians from further suffering,” she added.

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