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South Sudan: UN agency seeks massive boost in funding, warns of 'refugee exodus'

11 July 2014 – The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) appealed on Friday for $658 million to respond to South Sudan's growing regional refugee crisis, with as many as 715,000 refugees expected by the end of the year.

Melissa Fleming, UNHCR spokesperson told the press in Geneva that the agency is deeply concerned about the ongoing conflict and worsening humanitarian situation inside the world's youngest nation, warning that it is fuelling a "refugee exodus" into Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda at a much higher rate than initially anticipated.

"The figure of more than 715,000 more than doubles the number of refugees envisaged when we launched our original appeal in March," she said. In March, when the refugee population was forecast at 340,000, UNHCR requested $371 million.

"If the amount does not increase urgently, the consequences could be drastic and will include food shortages, worsening sanitary conditions, and heightened risk of disease," she said.

Ethiopia has witnessed the biggest surge in refugee arrivals over recent months, with some 11,000 refugees crossing into the remote town of Burubiey over a 72-hour period at the peak in early May. This remote corner of Ethiopia is still receiving over 1,000 refugees a day, overwhelming local services and capacities, Ms. Fleming said.

"Many of the refugees arriving in Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and Sudan are in a terrible state," she added. "They are exhausted, traumatized by what they've fled and by the difficult journey to safety, malnourished and in very poor health."

An extremely high number of refugee arrivals are women and children- as high as 94 per cent in Ethiopia- and are particularly vulnerable. There are some 14,000 unaccompanied and separated children and currently, there are some 400,000 refugees from South Sudan in Ethiopia (158,164), Uganda (118,423), Sudan (82,000) and Kenya (41,115).

The revised response plan aims to provide life-saving aid in the forms of food, nutrition support, health, water and sanitation, hygiene and shelter assistance. Other priorities include ensuring that the camps and settlements are safe and contributing to reports of human rights violations inside South Sudan.

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