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More than 350,000 refugees from the fighting in South Sudan are expected to flee across the border into Ethiopia in the coming months, according to Christian Aid, a Christian relief agency.
Six camps in the Gambella region, the main Ethiopian entry point, are already severely overstretched with nearly 140,000 refugees registered, and more than 1,000 new arrivals a day.

With only 41 percent of the funds for the international crisis response plan for South Sudan in place at present, and the regional refugee response plan only 22.4 percent funded, fears are mounting over food security, the spread of disease, and the protection of civilians.

Inside South Sudan, more than 1 million people have been displaced since fighting started four months ago between government and opposition forces. An estimated 4 million people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance.

Christian Aid is working in the opposition-held Pagak area and government-held Nasir, with support from the START fund, a multiagency resource, backed by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, which provides fast and direct funding for “under the radar” crises.

It is also working across the border in Gambella drilling boreholes for emergency water provision and distributing pressed-steel fuel containers and cleaning materials to help prevent the spread of disease.

“Most of the refugees arriving are women, children and elderly people because many men have either gone to fight or have been killed,” said Tamrat Terefe of Christian Aid Ethiopia.

“We continue to work with local partners in very difficult circumstances, but the number of refugees is growing on a daily basis and, with drought predicted in some parts of Ethiopia by the end of the year, it is not clear how sustainable the current situation is,” Terefe said.

Natalia Chan, Christian Aid’s senior advocacy and policy officer for East Africa, said, “We welcome the communiqué released which details the most recent agreement between South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar, providing a basis for negotiating a transitional government of national unity in an inclusive process.”

“The two leaders recommitted themselves to the roadmap agreement signed on 9 May, which crucially included a recommitment to the Cessation of Hostilities agreement, and free and unhindered military access.”

But with the growing level of need, Christian Aid is urging the international community to act fast to provide the necessary funding to supply food and nonfood items.

The peace process must also be on a fast track to find a permanent solution to the conflict.

Paul Hobson is the news editor of The Baptist Times, the online newspaper of The Baptist Union of Great Britain. A version of this news article first appeared on The Baptist Times website and is used with permission. You can follow the Baptist Times on Twitter @BaptistTimes and the union @baptistuniongb.

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