Population rises at Bentiu UN base

More than 70,000 civilians are now seeking shelter in the United Nations base in Bentiu, Unity state, the highest so far during South Sudan's civil war, humanitarians said.

A weekly situation report released Monday by the UN's Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said: "the number of recorded displaced people in the Bentiu PoC sites has increased from 53,000 to about 75,000 people."

According to an OCHA survey, nearly 22,000 displaced people have registered in the Bentiu site since the last survey in January, with the vast majority - over 17,500 individuals or 80% - primarily seeking protection.

However, not all these new arrivals may be residing in the base as some come to receive food or other basic services but live off site.

According to a spokesperson for the UN's peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which is mandated to protect civilians at the Bentiu base, there remain 53,000 people inside.

Aid agency Medicins Sans Frontieres, which operates a hospital inside the Bentiu site, also said that by its own headcount about 53,000 people are sheltering inside the Bentiu base.

More than 117,000 people are sheltering in UN bases in South Sudan, according to UNMISS' latest published figures.

Meanwhile, OCHA noted that work to expand the Bentiu site is ongoing with new land cleared and berms and drainage systems being built to better accommodate the displaced people.

OCHA also reported the presence of armed soldiers within the new expansion site. The humanitarian office said UN peacekeepers as well as civilian peacebuilders will address the issue. Further, they recommended installing lights and improving security along the perimeter of the expansion.

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