UN concerned for displaced in South Sudan's Upper Nile regionListen /
The UN's top official in South Sudan has expressed concern over the status of thousands of displaced people in the Upper Nile region.
David Shearer, head of the UN mission in the country, UNMISS, has described the lack of information about the situation of roughly 20,000 people there, as "a real problem."
Mr Shearer was in the northern town of Malakal on Thursday, his first trip there since taking up his post in January.
Dianne Penn reports.
The UN mission believes the people have fled towards Kodok from Wau Shilluk, a town located eight miles north of its base in Malakal, on the west bank of the River Nile.
UNMISS reports that fighting between government troops (SPLA) and opposition forces has expanded geographically across the west bank over the past week and shows no signs of abating, forcing more people to flee their homes.
Daniel Dickinson is the mission's spokesperson.
"On Thursday, UN peacekeepers attempted to carry out a foot patrol to Wau Shilluk but were prevented from doing so by government SPLA soldiers located at Wau Shilluk, a situation Mr Shearer described as 'very frustrating.' He said we want to find out what has happened to those people and, if necessary, provide them with assistance."
Meanwhile, UNMISS has described the government's relocation of internally displaced people through the capital, Juba, into Malakal, as "unsustainable" if they are not also supported with humanitarian assistance on arrival.
The UN mission also reported that the Shilluk population in Malakal has abandoned the town and are currently taking refuge in its protection-of-civilians site.
The Shilluk are one of the many ethnic groups in South Sudan.
Mr Dickinson said UNMISS is increasingly concerned that fighting is once again spreading across the Upper Nile region.
Dianne Penn, United Nations.