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Heads of World Food Programme and UN Refugee Agency visit South Sudan and Ethiopia amid alarming spread of hunger and displacement

Press Releases, 31 March 2014

JUBA, 31 March 2014 Alarmed at the impact of ongoing violence in South Sudan, the heads of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Refugee agency (UNHCR) arrived here today on a joint trip to meet conflict-affected people and to review the on-going response and needs amid a spiralling humanitarian crisis.

More than 800,000 people have been displaced in South Sudan by the conflict, which flared up on 15 December 2013. This includes 68,000 people who are sheltering in UN peacekeeping bases. A further 254,000 refugees have crossed into neighbouring countries seeking shelter and food. Additionally, South Sudan was also hosting some 220,000 refugees from Sudan in camps close to conflict areas.

WFP's Executive Director Ertharin Cousin and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres will spend two days in South Sudan to meet displaced people, partners and local authorities, before crossing over the border to meet some of the more than 80,000 refugees in Ethiopia.

"It is heartbreaking to see that some of the very people who had fled the war two decades ago, people we helped to return to South Sudan after independence, are having to flee for their lives again, many back to the very same places where they lived in exile," said Mr. Guterres, noting 40,000 people have crossed into Sudan to escape recent fighting.

Humanitarian access to refugees, internally displaced persons and other vulnerable populations is increasingly challenging due to continuing warfare and shifting conflict lines. The two Agency heads are concerned about the number of people cut off from any form of aid and the concern that violence has put farming to a halt in some areas.

"Large-scale population displacement and disruption of markets and trade routes are creating a food security crisis," said Ms. Cousin. "People are in acute need. Humanitarians require two things: safe access to those in need and the funds to bring in lifesaving supplies food, shelter, vaccines, healthcare and other aid. Several countries have contributed generously, but at current levels we are only able to cover a fraction of the needs."

In the more than 100 days since the start of the conflict more than half a million people have received food assistance inside the country, but continued conflict, combined with the onset of the rainy season has made it difficult to reach many people in need. The relief effort has been further hampered by a severe lack of funds.

An inter-agency appeal led by UNHCR is calling for more than USD 370 million to fund the refugee response in Ethiopia, Kenya, Republic of Sudan and Uganda. Inside South Sudan, WFP is facing a funding shortfall of USD 224 million over the next six months, while humanitarian partners require a further USD42 million for shelter and other non-food items.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. On average, WFP reaches more than 90 million people with food assistance in 80 countries each year.

UNHCR leads and co-ordinates international action to protect refugees and safeguard their rights and work for their well-being.

Follow us on Twitter: @refugees and @wfp

For more information please contact:

  • Challiss McDonough, WFP, mobile: +254 707 722 104, challiss.mcdonough@wfp.org
  • George Fominyen, WFP Juba, mobile: +221 922 465 247, George.fominyen@wfp.org
  • Melissa Fleming, UNHCR, mobile: +41 79 557 9122, fleming@unhcr.org
  • Teresa Ongaro, UNHCR Juba, mobile: +211 927 770040, ongaro@unhcr.org
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South Sudan Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Donate now and help to provide emergency aid to tens of thousands of people fleeing South Sudan to escape violence.

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Displacement in South Sudan: A Camp Within a Camp

In the three weeks since South Sudan erupted in violence, an estimated 200,000 South Sudanese have found themselves displaced within their own country. Some 57,000 have sought sanctuary at bases of UN peace-keepers across the country. These photos by UNHCR's Senior Regional Public Information Officer Kitty McKinsey give a glimpse of the daily life of the 14,000 displaced people inside the UN compound known locally as Tong Ping, near the airport in Juba, South Sudan's capital. Relief agencies, including UNHCR, are rallying to bring shelter, blankets and other aid items, but in the first days, displaced people had to fend for themselves. The compounds have taken on all the trappings of small towns, with markets, kiosks, garbage collection and public bathing facilities. Amazingly, children still manage to smile and organize their own games with the simplest of materials.

Displacement in South Sudan: A Camp Within a Camp

Emergency food distribution in South Sudan's Jonglei state

Humanitarian organizations in South Sudan are working to deliver emergency assistance to some of the tens of thousands of people displaced by armed conflict in Jonglei state. Most of those uprooted have fled into the bush or have walked for days to reach villages away from the fighting. Others have journeyed even greater distances to find sanctuary in the neighbouring countries of Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. Gaining access to those affected in an insecure and isolated area has been a significant challenge for aid workers. Since mid-July, an airlift has been providing food supplies to families living in two previously inaccessible villages and where humanitarian agencies have established temporary bases. As part of the "cluster approach" to humanitarian emergencies, which brings together partners working in the same response sector, UNHCR is leading the protection cluster to ensure the needs of vulnerable individuals among the displaced are addressed.

Emergency food distribution in South Sudan's Jonglei state

Thousands of refugees moved before the rains hit South Sudan

Since the beginning of May, an operation has been under way in South Sudan to move more than 18,000 Sudanese refugees to a newly built camp. Six days a week, around 500 people are transported from the Jamam camp in Upper Nile state to a recently constructed site called Kaya. South Sudan's long and intense rainy season will soon begin in earnest and the operation will move the refugees from a location prone to severe flooding to one designed to remain accessible and functional during the downpours. The rains leave large areas of the country cut off by flood waters for months. Residents of Jamam are assisted to move their household belongings and are allotted a plot of land on arrival in Kaya, where UNHCR partners have established schools and medical facilities. Newly arrived refugees from Sudan are also brought to Kaya, where they are provided with relief items and shelter. UNHCR's Tim Irwin was there with his camera.

Thousands of refugees moved before the rains hit South Sudan

South Sudan: Food Security Play video

South Sudan: Food Security

Jacob is plowing 20 kilometers far from his own home town, Bor, after having to abandon it due to the ongoing fighting in South Sudan. Now in Mingkaman camp,as a displaced person, this land he plows is all he has after losing farm and cattle back home
South Sudan: Flooding Disaster Play video

South Sudan: Flooding Disaster

Nearly 100,000 people are living in cramped, overcrowded camps in Mingkaman, in Rivers State, South Sudan. Whenever it rains, tents become flooded causing already fragile sanitation conditions to worsen.
South Sudan: Rainy SeasonPlay video

South Sudan: Rainy Season

As the rainy season approaches, the humanitarian situation in South Sudan remains critical. The rains will make it more difficult to bring in aid and if conflict continues, half of South Sudan's 12 million people could be in danger of starvation by the end of this year.