By Sebastien Malo
NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – More than 8,300 refugees fled violence in war-torn South Sudan and crossed into neighboring Uganda in a single day this week, setting a one-day record for this year, United Nations officials said on Friday.
The refugees, nearly all women and children, were escaping stepped-up fighting between forces loyal to South Sudan’s president and those loyal to its former vice president, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said.
More than two years of ethnically charged fighting, triggered when President Salva Kiir fired Vice President Riek Machar in 2013, has killed more than 10,000 people and forced more than 2 million others to flee their homes.
This week overall, more than 24,000 South Sudanese traveled south to Uganda, pushing the limits of humanitarian groups working in the region, UNHCR said.
Days of torrential rain have created muddy roads that complicate deliveries, and the rain and crowded conditions heighten risks of disease spreading, UNHCR said.
“At the moment humanitarian organizations are coping, but just about,” Charles Yaxley, a UNHCR spokesman, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Kampala.
Some 10,000 refugees are staying in the Ugandan border town of Elegu in a compound equipped to hold 1,000 people, Yaxley said.
Another Ugandan site in Kuluba has more than three times its capacity, with more than 1,000 refugees, UNHCR said.
The government of Uganda is considering opening new settlement sites for refugees in the northern West Nile region, Yaxley said.
(Reporting by Sebastien Malo, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)