GENEVA: The UN refugee agency warned Friday that fighting in South Sudan could drive more than half a million people from their homes, doubling the number of those affected by April.
"In South Sudan, the situation has continued to deteriorate. Fighting has spread to seven of the country's 10 states," said Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
"We anticipate that refugee numbers could rise to 125,000 and that the number of people displaced within South Sudan could reach 400,000," he told reporters.
Currently, 230,000 people have been displaced in the young nation by a month of fighting between government and rebel forces, with some 60,500 civilians seeking safety in UN compounds.
A further 43,000 refugees have fled across the borders, the overwhelming majority heading to Uganda.
Most of those who have been forced out of their homes are women and children, according to the UN children's agency UNICEF.
The unrest began on December 15 as a clash between army units loyal to President Salva Kiir and those supporting ex-vice president Riek Machar.
It has escalated into war between government troops and a loose alliance of ethnic militia forces and army units who have defected to the rebel side.
The United Nations estimates that over 1,000 people have been killed since the violence erupted last month, but aid agencies believe the death toll may be well into the thousands.
Atrocities have been committed by both sides.
"We appeal for restraint from all parties and remind them of their responsibility and remind them of their responsibility to protect civilians and respect innocent lives," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has been gathering evidence of violations, with around 60 international investigators backed by some 30 South Sudanese counterparts, Colville said.
In addition, the African Union has announced a probe.
"We welcome recent high-level committments to investigate these serious human rights violations and establish who is responsible, as urged by the African Union," said Colville.
"These investigations need to be undertaken as soon as possible in accordance with internationally accepted standards and principles of objectivity, transparency and due express," he added.