Ethiopia now Africa's biggest refugee host amid S. Sudan crisis

AFP
South Sudanese refugees fetch water at a watering point in a camp for Internally Displaced People in Gambella, Ethiopia, on July 10, 2014
South Sudanese refugees fetch water at a watering point in a camp for Internally Displaced People in Gambella, Ethiopia, on July 10, 2014 (AFP Photo/Zacharias Abubeker)

Geneva (AFP) - The spiralling crisis in war-ravaged South Sudan has sent nearly 200,000 refugees into Ethiopia, making it Africa's largest refugee-hosting country, the United Nations said Tuesday.

At the end of July, Ethiopia was sheltering 629,718 refugees -- nearly half of them from South Sudan -- while Kenya, which has long been the biggest refugee host on the continent, counted 575,334 registered refugees and asylum seekers, the UN's refugee agency said.

"The main factor in the increased numbers is the conflict in South Sudan," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva.

That conflict, which erupted last December amid a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar, has left thousands dead and forced 1.59 million people to flee their homes, according to fresh UN numbers.

Including those who had fled the world's youngest nation before the latest conflict began, 1.29 million South Sudanese are currently displaced inside the country while 576,340 are refugees in neighbouring countries.

Some 247,000 of them have found their way to Ethiopia -- 188,000 of them since the beginning of this year, Edwards said.

Ethiopia also counts 245,000 refugees from Somalia, including 3,000 who have arrived in the past seven months, and 99,000 from Eritrea -- an increase of 15,000 since the beginning of the year, he said.