Humanitarian crisis in South Sudan continues

The humanitarian crisis in South Sudan is continuing with more than 100,000 people having been forced from their homes over the last two months due to heavy fighting in the country’s Unity and Upper Nile states.

The upsurge in fighting has also blocked humanitarian aid deliveries for around 650,000 people, with aid organizations having been forced to withdraw. SInce the beginning of the year, as many as 60,000 people from South Sudan have fled the country – 30,000 have arrived in Sudan, 15,000 in Ethiopia and a further 15,000 have fled to Uganda.

SInce December 2013, an estimated 555,000 South Sudanese have left the country, while some 1.5 million are internally displaced in the country.

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, says that an increase in fighting and growing food insecurity are the main reasons why people have fled their homes. It’s estimated that more than 3.8 million people, about a third of South Sudan’s population of 11 million, do not have sufficient food.

Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for UNHCR, says that the situation is expected to get worse: “UNHCR offices in Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda have all reported sharp increases in arrivals during May. Last week alone, we saw 6,000 South Sudanese arriving in Sudan’s White Nile and South Kordofan states. The majority are in White Nile State, where 87 per cent of the families are headed by women and 72 per cent of the refugees are children.”

UNHCR says that in Ethiopia’s Gambella region, more than 6,100 South Sudanese refugees were registered in May, while in April the number was 4,800. Arrivals were at less than 1,000 people a month before this. In addition, an estimated 7,000 South Sudanese are at the Pagak and Akobo entry points waiting to be registered. UNHCR, the government counterpart and other partners are developing a new site next to the existing Pugnido refugee camp to accommodate new arrivals and as a contingency measure for future arrivals.

During the last three weeks, more than 47,000 South Sudanese refugees who had settled in areas that flooded during last year’s severe rainy season have now been relocated to a new refugee camp in Jewi near Gambella. The former refugee sites of Leitchour and Nip Nip are being restored and will be handed over to the host communities.

UNHCR’s office in Uganda has also reported an increase in arrivals over the last month of some 4,000 refugees. Many of the arriving refugees have said they fled fighting in and around the town of Malakal, in Upper Nile State, but also left due to growing food insecurity and rising prices for basic commodities. The new arrivals are being transferred from Nyumanzi transit centre to the newly extended Maaji settlement as well as to other existing settlements.

And while the pressure continues to grow on civilians in South Sudan and surrounding countries, Adrian Edwards says that a refugee response plan to help those in the greatest need is seriously underfunded, putting aid at risk: “When there’s only 10 percent funding you have to prioritise and that means that a number of services, including clean water, sanitation, health, food, shelter, all these things are really severely underfunded at this time. We have to prioritise further as the condition continues but obviously we hope that funds will come in.”