UNHCR chief appeals for massive humanitarian support for South Sudan

News Stories, 9 January 2012

Relieved Sudanese youngsters rest after arriving at Doro refugee camp in South Sudan. High Commissioner António Guterres called on the international community to do more to support the relief effort and avert a massive crisis.

DORO CAMP, South Sudan, January 9 (UNHCR) UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres on Monday called on the international community to provide "massive" humanitarian support for South Sudan, which faces major forced displacement crises.

Without such help, Guterres warned after meeting refugees in Doro camp, "it will not be possible to respond…We could face a humanitarian disaster of enormous proportions." Doro hosts at least 28,000 people who have fled to South Sudan to escape fighting in Sudan's Blue Nile state between the Sudan armed forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North.

Six months after South Sudan celebrated its status as a newly independent country, the disputed border area with Sudan has become a flashpoint and a gateway for tens of thousands of refugees.

Guterres noted that South Sudan was facing "massive suffering and a multiplicity of crises more than 80,000 people have fled Blue Nile and South Kordofan States of Sudan. There is fierce inter-communal violence and displacement in its own state of Jonglei." He added that the Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel group from Uganda, was also causing problems in South Sudan.

The High Commissioner talked to several refugees during his visit to Doro, including a woman who had just fled with her three children from Blue Nile state. "We thought we would have peace for longer. Then a bomb came and we just ran," she told Guterres.

Exhausted, hungry and vulnerable, women and children walk several days to seek safety across the border in Northern Upper Nile state, where Doro is located. Most of the menfolk have stayed behind to watch over their property and territory.

Aside from the 28,000 in Doro, up to 25,000 other civilians have sought refuge in other parts of Upper Nile state. Continuing conflict in Sudan's Blue Nile state continues to drive large numbers of people across the borders with South Sudan and Ethiopia.

"Women are crying because their children are sick. Women are crying because their children are hungry," said South Sudan's Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Joseph Lual Achuil, who accompanied the High Commissioner to Doro.

UNHCR is conducting a major airlift of aid to remote refugee sites and working with partners to erect shelter and deliver basic services for the refugees. With at least 1,000 refugees arriving in Doro every week, Achuil called for more international aid during the current two-month dry season. If we wait, he said, "this area will be locked in."

Meanwhile, thousands of refugees also continue to seek refuge in South Sudan's Unity State. Fleeing bombing, most of them arrive in the border village of Yida. In a meeting with refugee leaders from Sudan's South Kordofan state, the High Commissioner urged residents to move to a safer UNHCR settlement some 50 kilometres from the border.

Refugee leaders claimed, during a meetng with Guterres, that there were at least 300,000 people hiding in the Nuba mountains across the border, terrified and quickly running out of food and water. This could not be independently confirmed.

The High Commissioner also met southerners returning from Sudan to establish new lives in South Sudan. Exhausted after a week-long barge trip down the Nile, the new citizens move on to their final destinations, often assisted by UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration. More than 350,000 people of South Sudanese origin have returned since independence. An estimated 700,000 remain in Sudan.

By Melissa Fleming in Doro Camp, South Sudan



South Sudan: Appeal for Doro CampPlay video

South Sudan: Appeal for Doro Camp

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visits refugees in South Sudan and says international assistance is "absolutely crucial.”

UNHCR country pages


Advocacy is a key element in UNHCR activities to protect people of concern.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Bonga camp is located in the troubled Gambella region of western Ethiopia. But it remains untouched by the ethnic conflicts that have torn nearby Gambella town and Fugnido camp in the last year.

For Bonga's 17,000 Sudanese refugees, life goes on despite rumblings in the region. Refugee children continue with school and play while their parents make ends meet by supplementing UNHCR assistance with self-reliance projects.

Cultural life is not forgotten, with tribal ceremonies by the Uduk majority. Other ethnic communities – Shuluks, Nubas and Equatorians – are welcome too, judging by how well hundreds of newcomers have settled in after their transfer from Fugnido camp in late 2002.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote

Ahead of South Sudan's landmark January 9, 2011 referendum on independence, tens of thousands of southern Sudanese in the North packed their belongings and made the long trek south. UNHCR set up way stations at key points along the route to provide food and shelter to the travellers during their arduous journey. Several reports of rapes and attacks on travellers reinforced the need for these reception centres, where women, children and people living with disabilities can spend the night. UNHCR has made contingency plans in the event of mass displacement after the vote, including the stockpiling of shelter and basic provisions for up to 50,000 people.

Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote

South Sudan: Preparing for Long-Awaited Returns

The signing of a peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the army of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement on 9 January, 2005, ended 21 years of civil war and signaled a new era for southern Sudan. For some 4.5 million uprooted Sudanese – 500,000 refugees and 4 million internally displaced people – it means a chance to finally return home.

In preparation, UNHCR and partner agencies have undertaken, in various areas of South Sudan, the enormous task of starting to build some basic infrastructure and services which either were destroyed during the war or simply had never existed. Alongside other UN agencies and NGOs, UNHCR is also putting into place a wide range of programmes to help returnees re-establish their lives.

These programs include road construction, the building of schools and health facilities, as well as developing small income generation programmes to promote self-reliance.

South Sudan: Preparing for Long-Awaited Returns

South Sudan: A Long Walk in Search of Safety Play video

South Sudan: A Long Walk in Search of Safety

Years of fighting between Sudan and rebel forces have sent more than 240,000 people fleeing to neighbouring South Sudan, a country embroiled in its own conflict. After weeks on foot, Amal Bakith and her five children are settling in at Ajoung Thok refugee camp where they receive food, shelter, access to education and land.
South Sudan: Helping the Most VulnerablePlay video

South Sudan: Helping the Most Vulnerable

UNHCR comes to the assistance of older, disabled and sickly Sudanese refugees arriving in Yusuf Batil Camp.
Khaled Hosseini - No one chooses to be a refugeePlay video

Khaled Hosseini - No one chooses to be a refugee

UNHCR's 2012 World Refugee Day global social advocacy campaign, "Dilemmas", aims to help fight intolerance and xenophobia against refugees. UNHCR Goodwill Envoy Khaled Hosseini and a host of other celebrities echo the same strong message: No one chooses to be a refugee.