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Spreading Violence in S. Sudan Forcing Thousands to Flee to Uganda

FILE - A woman and her children displaced by fighting in South Sudan sit outside her tent at the Kule camp for Internally Displaced People at the Pagak border crossing in Gambella, Ethiopia.

The U.N. refugee agency reports spreading violence in South Sudan’s East Equatoria region is forcing thousands of civilians to flee across the border into neighboring Uganda in search of refuge.

he U.N. refugee agency expresses alarm at the ongoing deterioration of the security situation inside South Sudan. It reports more than 6,000 refugees have arrived in Uganda since April 3 when violence erupted in the town of Pajok in the Eastern Equatoria region.

As fighting spreads to other towns, the UNHCR says an average of 2,000 refugees fleeing insecurity, violence and famine are arriving in northern Uganda every day.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch says newly arriving refugees, who claim their town had come under indiscriminate attack by South Sudan’s armed forces, recount tales of horrific abuse.

“Refugees report witnessing their loved ones shot dead at a close range, many being slaughtered, others arrested, including children," Baloch sasid. "Families fled in different directions. The elderly and disabled who could not run were shot dead.”

Baloch says many people are still hiding in the bush. He says refugees report homes and properties were looted and burned and armed groups are preventing people from escaping by blocking main roads out of town.

Baloch tells VOA the Ugandan government and aid agencies are overwhelmed by the numbers arriving and there is no sign this refugee exodus is slowing down.

“Humanitarian agencies do not have enough funding to help support those who are arriving ," Baloch sasid. " My UNHCR colleagues are on the ground, but we are struggling to feed these people. We are struggling to provide them shelter, safe drinking water and medical care.”

Balloch calls this a losing battle as UNHCR’s humanitarian appeal for South Sudan of nearly $782 million is only 11 percent funded.

Uganda currently hosts more than 832,000 South Sudanese refugees. An estimated 192,000 have arrived this year.