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Number of South Sudan refugees tops one million, UN says 

UNITED NATIONS (Xinhua) -- The number of refugees in South Sudan has now passed the one million mark as instability and violence persist in the world’s youngest country, a UN spokesman said here Friday.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the South Sudanese people seeking safety and shelter in neighboring countries included more than 185,000 people who have fled since violence erupted in the capital Juba in July, Stephane Dujarric said at a daily news briefing here.

“Most of those fleeing are women and children,” the spokesman said. “With this milestone, South Sudan joins Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia as countries which have produced more than a million refugees.”

They included survivors of violent attacks, sexual assault, children that have been separated from their parents or travelled alone, the disabled, the elderly and people in need of urgent medical care, the UN agency.

Juba witnessed a new round of fierce fighting between rival forces in the country in early July, just ahead of the fifth anniversary of the country’s independence.

In terms of numbers, Uganda, with 373,626 of refugees, accounts for the largest share of South Sudanese refugees.

More than a third of them arrived since the most recent violence broke out. Ethiopia (292,000) and Sudan (247,317) are the second and third largest hosts to people fleeing South Sudan.

Smaller numbers have also fled to Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR) since July.

About 300 people a week have been crossing into Kenya, which now hosts over 90,000 South Sudanese refugees. Some 40,000 refugees are estimated in DRC.

“UNHCR warns that without further funding and support, they will struggle to assist the needy with even the most basic assistance,” he said.

The UN agency called on donors to provide 701 million U.S. dollars for South Sudan refugee operations, of which 21 percent has been funded, he said.

The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan has concluded their first mission in the country. The Commission was established by the Human Rights Council in March.

The delegation expressed concern about the diminishing space for journalists and civil society members, as well as the lack of access for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and humanitarian actors and the escalation of sexual violence.

“They also expressed grave concern about the ongoing impunity and lack of accountability for serious crimes and human rights violations in the country,” Dujarric said.  

South Sudan won independence on July 9, 2011 from Sudan after more than two decades of war that ended in a bitter divorce.

The country again plunged into conflict in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup, which led to a cycle of retaliatory killings. 

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