Armed clashes create panic in Yida
On Sunday 17 March hundreds of refugees who fled an outbreak of fighting in Yida began returning to their homes. Yida is the largest camp in South Sudan with 69,842 registered refugees residing there.
Sustained gunfire erupted in the northeastern section of the settlement around 6pm on Saturday night causing several hundred refugees, mostly women and children, to flee their homes. At the time of writing it was not clear what caused the clashes or who was involved.
Around 600 women and children who fled the fighting were sheltered in two compounds where water, sleeping mats, and other relief supplies were provided. UN peacekeepers stationed in Yida guarded the compounds overnight. With relative calm restored by Sunday morning most of those displaced by the fighting had begun returning voluntarily to their homes.
The incident highlights the UN refugee agency’s serious concerns over the civilian character of Yida settlement and its proximity to a contested border area.
During the week UNHCR launched an information campaign in Yida to sensitize refugees about the new camp that is being opened at Ajuong Thok, 90km from the disputed border zone.
Refugees have the freedom to decide if they want to stay in Yida or start life in a new camp that is less congested and at a safer distance from the border.
Posters have been displayed all over the camp. At the food distribution point community mobilizers used public address systems to inform refugees of their rights and the services that will be available Ajuong. Women in particular raised concerns about opportunities and better lives.
Earlier this month, the South Sudan Deputy Refugee Commissioner with the refugee leadership in Yida to discuss the forthcoming move to Ajuong.