More than a million refugees have fled South Sudan’s civil war, overwhelming aid agencies.
The United Nations said Friday that South Sudan joins Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia as countries that have produced more than 1 million refugees.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, but civil war erupted two years later, and tens of thousands of people have been killed. New fighting in July in the capital, Juba, created a surge of more than 185,000 refugees. Most people fleeing are women and children.
Uganda hosts the highest number of refugees. In the past week, 20,000 have arrived due to clashes. Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Congo and Central African Republic also have received tens of thousands of people fleeing. The U.N. praised the countries, some of the world’s poorest, for allowing refugees to enter.
“Many refugees arrive exhausted after days walking in the bush and going without food or water,” Leo Dobbs, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency, said. “Many women and girls said they were sexually assaulted during their flight.”
Another 1.6 million people are displaced inside South Sudan.
The fighting that erupted in July between supporters of President Salva Kiir and then-Vice President Riek Machar “has shattered hopes for a real breakthrough and triggered new waves of displacement and suffering,” Dobbs said.
A peace deal reached a year ago continues to be violated. Machar fled the country in July’s chaos.
South Sudan has been threatened by the U.N. Security Council with an arms embargo if it does not accept 4,000 additional peacekeepers to protect civilians. The government calls the plan a violation of its sovereignty.