South Sudanese refugees arrive in Kakuma Refugee Camp in droves

By Gatonye Gathura

Turkana, Kenya: The number of refugees arriving from South Sudan at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Turkana is expected to over shoot earlier estimates.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonia Guterres is now preparing for the worst-case scenario.

In a statement, the UN body has been preparing to receive about 20,000 refugees at the camp but with a daily arrival of more than 500 people, they could very well overshoot the earlier estimates hence creating a possible humanitarian crisis.

By last Monday, the UN staff had registered 9,950 new arrivals from Jonglei State of South Sudan with 70 per cent of them being children of which 29 per cent are under five years. Majority of these children are separated from their families.

The UN body says since Sudan went into a referendum and the birth of a new nation, it had prepared a contingency plan in case a situation like the current one developed.

“This plan was revised constantly based on developments in Southern Sudan including clashes in Jonglei State, sacking of the cabinet and the deputy president a few months back and the current clashes that erupted on December 16,” Mr Guterres said.

The plan, the UN says catered for two scenarios for Kakuma; 20,000 and 100,000 influxes respectively.

“We are currently on the first scenario however, at this rate, we would very soon move to the worst case scenario,” the report continues.

Among the concrete plans the organisation had made was to secure land (Kakuma 4) to accommodate about 25,000 refugees. This is where the new arrivals are being accommodated.

Before the current crisis in Southern Sudan, the registered number of refugees at Kakuma was 128, 730. Now with almost over 138,000 refugees, it is soon approaching the maximum holding capacity of 150,000 individuals.

New site

The organisation says a suitable site had earlier been identified at Nakururum some 60Km north of Kakuma towards Loki. “There is an urgent need to start negotiating for this piece of land with the county government and the host communities,” says Guterres.

Apart from difficulties in accessing adequate vaccines from the Ministry of Health, UNHCR says they are finding it difficult to protect the high number of unaccompanied children at the camp.