42,000 S. Sudanese Refugees in Ethiopia since December

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Addis Ababa, 18 February 2014 (WIC) - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Tuesday that the number of South Sudanese refugees who have fled violence in their homeland to neighboring Ethiopia since December had hit 42,000.

Kisut Gebre Egziabher, head of the UNHCR's Ethiopia office, told Anadolu Agency that between 10,000 and 15,000 more refugees were settled along the border between South Sudan and Ethiopia awaiting entry into the latter.

"We have been told that refugees have faced difficulties crossing a river known locally as the Yacobo River," he said.

Egziabher added that, following discussions with the Ethiopian government, the UNHCR had opened two new refugee camps in Ethiopia.

Before the conflict, some 40,000 South Sudanese refugees were already in Ethiopia's Fugnido camp, he noted.

"This means there are now more than 80,000 (South Sudanese) refugees in Ethiopia," he said, noting this number was likely to rise as "more South Sudanese refugees flock into the country."

The World Food Program is currently working with the Ethiopian government to provide food, shelter and health services to refugees, Egziabher added.

South Sudan has been shaken by violence since last December, when President Salva Kiir accused his sacked vice president, Riek Machar, of standing behind a failed coup attempt against his regime.

The violence has already claimed more than 10,000 lives. The UN estimates that some 3.7 million South Sudanese are now "severely food insecure," while more than 867,000 have been displaced by the fighting.

Representatives of the two warring camps are currently in Ethiopia for a second round of direct peace talks after agreeing to a cessation of hostilities in January.

The two sides, however, have yet to meet despite previous announcements that the talks had already kicked off.

No reason has been given for the delay by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East Africa trading bloc that is mediating the talks. (Fars News Agency)