The East African nation, which has played host to a number of refugees from neighbouring war torn countries over the last 20 years, has been overtaken by Ethiopia.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of the end of July, Ethiopia is sheltering 629,718 refugees.
“Essentially what has happened is that the war in Sudan between the two warring factions that is Riek Machar’s group and the government under the president Salva Kiir has forced people to move out of South Sudan,” Andrew Maina from the Refugee Consortium of Kenya told CNBC Africa.
Fighting broke out in South Sudan’s capital, Juba in December last year and has triggered colossal displacement internally and into neighbouring countries. So far, the turmoil in Africa’s youngest country has forcibly displaced 1.861 million South Sudanese of whom almost 1.3 million are internally displaced and more than 575,000 are refugees in neighbouring countries.
“If you look at the geopolitical position of Ethiopia vis-à-vis Sudan, the area of violence is much closer to Ethiopia than it is to Kenya that is why you are having more and more people running towards Ethiopia than they are towards Kenya or Uganda,” Maina said.
According to UNHCR, South Sudanese refugees account to the largest refugee population in Ethiopia. The Eastern African country is hosting 247,000 South Sudanese refugees in the country, 245,000 Somalis and 99,000 Eritreans.
Ethiopia now has three camps and three transit sites having been opened since the beginning of the year to handle the growing number of refugees fleeing the fighting in South Sudan.
The UNHCR reports that the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has, for the first time in the post-World War II era, exceeded 50 million people.