The head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), David Shearer, has described the lack of information about the situation of some 20,000 internally displaced people on the west bank of the Nile in the north of South Sudan, as a “real problem.”
Mr Shearer was making his first field trip to the town of Malakal after taking up his position as UNMISS head four weeks ago.
UNMISS believes that the 20,000 people have fled towards Kodok from Wau Shilluk, a town eight miles north of the UN base in Malakal on the west bank of the River Nile.
Fighting between government SPLA forces and opposition forces has expanded geographically across the west bank over the past week, and shows no signs of abating, forcing more people to flee their homes.
On Thursday, UN peacekeepers attempted to carry out a foot patrol to Wau Shilluk, but were prevented from doing so by government SPLA soldiers located at Wau Shilluk, a situation Mr Shearer described as “very frustrating.” “We want to find out what has happened to those people,” he said, “and provide them with assistance if they need it.”
Meanwhile, UNMISS has described government relocations by air of internally displaced people through Juba into Malakal as unsustainable if they are not also supported with humanitarian assistance on arrival.
The Shilluk population of Malakal has abandoned the town and 33,000 people are currently taking refuge in the camp administered by UNMISS.
UNMISS is increasingly concerned that fighting is once again spreading across the Upper Nile region.
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