Geneva -

The UN's refugee agency said Friday it was 'alarmed' by the state of health of large numbers of refugees in South Sudan who have fallen ill from a cold spell of weather.

A statement from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHCR) said: “With 170,000 Sudanese refugees now in camps and settlements across South Sudan's Unity and Upper Niles states, the health situation among this population has become a matter of increasing alarm to us.

“With the current rain and cold, we are seeing refugees suffering from respiratory tract infections, diarrhoea and malaria.”

Most of the refugees are young children - accompanied by mothers who are also sick - with almost half in the Upper Nile state under the age of 11, said UNCHCR.

Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile states between Sudanese government troops and rebels since Juba's secession in July 2011 has forced many people to flee to refugee settlements in South Sudan. - Sapa-AFP