By Njoroge Kaburo
NAIROBI, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- More than 10,000 South Sudanese fleeing fighting in their country have crossed the border into Kenya since mid December last year, the UN humanitarian agency said Thursday.
A report from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Eastern Africa noted that over 80,000 people have now crossed the border from South Sudan into Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan as at Jan. 20.
"WFP supports approximately 450,000 refugees in Kenya and UNHCR projects that new arrivals from South Sudan may rise to 20,000 by March 31," OCHA said in its report published in Nairobi on Thursday.
The UN World Food Programe (WFP) said it needs an additional 35 million U.S. dollars to cover requirements through March for operations supporting new South Sudanese refugees in neighboring countries.
The UN had earlier appealed for 166 million U.S. dollars to provide assistance to the displaced civilians through March. So far, an estimated 167,000 people of the 628,000 in need of aid have been reached.
The UN expected to have a "significant number of foreign police units" operating on the ground within the next few days, with the full 5,500-strong surge in UN peacekeepers and equipment deployed on the ground within eight weeks, officials have said.
UNHCR reported that as many as 500 South Sudanese are arriving daily at the Kakuma refugee camp in northwest Kenya.
"The agency is concerned by the large presence of children among arrivals, the majority of whom are separated from their families," OCHA said. Prior to the latest conflict, the UN refugee agency had secured land in Kakuma to accommodate 25,000 refugees.
"This was meant to decongest the three existing Kakuma camps, which reached their capacity of 100,000 in July 2013. The new location is currently being used to settle new arrivals," it said.
Kenyan officials said that Kakuma refugee camp in northwest Kenya, which is now accommodating an estimated 119,000 refugees from different nationalities, is already overstretched.
The refugees have been overwhelmed by hundreds of Sudanese families, especially women and children who are seeking asylum in the country following an eruption of ethnic violence in South Sudan.
The government and UN officials are carrying out vetting process of the refugees which would continue at the border point to ensure only genuine refugees are registered in the camp.
The displacement in South Sudan has disrupted livelihoods and increased the risk of vulnerabilities, especially for communities that were already living in states affected by insecurity.
The fresh clashes which erupted in Juba have quickly spread, affecting six of the country's ten states.
According to FEWS Net, food insecurity among the worst affected populations, particularly in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity States, is likely to worsen in the coming months.
According to OCHA, internal and cross border trade flows have been affected as markets in Bor and Malakal were completely destroyed while those in Juba and Bentiu are operating at low levels due to insecurity.
"The fluid security situation has constrained humanitarian action in the country and put a major strain on existing refugee programmes in neighboring host countries," noted OCHA in its report.