UNHCR races to provide for displaced South Sudanese ahead of the rains

News Stories, 29 April 2014

© UNHCR/P.Rulashe
A recent aid distribution to displaced people in South Sudan.

JUBA, South Sudan, April 29 (UNHCR) As the rainy season approaches in East Africa, the UN refugee agency is racing to supply essential relief for many of the more than 1 million people displaced by the fighting in South Sudan over the last four months.

Within South Sudan, UNHCR is concerned about terrified civilians who have been left without basic household items because they have been forced to flee violence, often more than once. This leaves them exposed to the elements without the ability to keep warm, cook or maintain basic standards of hygiene.

In total, 923,000 South Sudanese are forcibly displaced within their own country. These people are spread across more than 170 spontaneous and organized sites, with the highest increase having been in Upper Nile state. More than 293,000 people have become refugees in neighbouring countries since last December. Some 4.9 million people need humanitarian assistance.

Today, UNHCR is due to airlift more relief supplies from Dubai directly to the South Sudan capital, Juba, for some 100,000 displaced people. The blankets, sleeping mats, water buckets and other relief items will be distributed mainly in Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei states. Once the rainy season begins in earnest next month, roads in these areas will become impassable for weeks.

Within South Sudan, heavy fighting broke out in the northern parts of Upper Nile last Wednesday and unconfirmed reports suggest that as many as 40,000 people may be fleeing fighting and heading towards Melut. Tension is also high in Bor in Jonglei state, with more people reported to be moving out of the town. Fighting has also caused displacement in Duk and Twic East counties.

Across the border in Sudan, UNHCR's priority is to relocate some 23,000 South Sudanese in White Nile state away from their current site. The site, called Kilo 10, will become inaccessible very soon as the rains increase.

UN agencies, the Sudanese Red Crescent Society and the government of Sudan last week conducted a one-day assessment mission to two relocation sites proposed by authorities. The sites both appear suitable, and host communities did not express any objections to having refugees move there. Sudan has taken in more than 65,000 South Sudanese since fighting broke out in mid-December last year.

Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, UNHCR and its partners are expanding accommodation for nearly 100,000 refugees who have arrived in the Gambella region in the west of the country.

"We have finished flying in 4,000 emergency family tents and have already set up 2,000 of them at Leitchuor Camp. Another 1,500 are being sent to Kule Camp. The remainder will be kept in stock for when we need them," a UNHCR spokesperson said.

"We have also begun demarcating and clearing land for a fifth camp near Kule. It is expected to open in the beginning of May and take in 25,000 refugees with an eventual capacity of 30,000," the spokesperson added.

Also in the Gambella area, UNHCR and its partners are expanding registration and reception. A new registration centre at Burubiey, on the border with South Sudan's Jonglei state, will cut the time refugees have to travel to get registered by five days if they walk or 15 hours if they take a boat. The centre is run by UNHCR and the Ethiopian government's Administration of Refugee and Returnee Affairs.

At another border point, Pagak, bordering South Sudan's Upper Nile state, joint registration has also resumed after an interruption of more than two weeks to move some 700 Ethiopian citizens who were trying to register as refugees in order to get aid.

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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.

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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: The Long Trip Home

When the peace treaty that ended 21 years of civil war between north and south Sudan was signed in 2005, some 223,000 Sudanese refugees were living in Uganda – the largest group of Sudanese displaced to a neighbouring country.

Despite South Sudan's lack of basic infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals and roads, many Sudanese were eager to go home. In May 2006, the UN refugee agency's Uganda office launched an assisted repatriation programme for Sudanese refugees. The returnees were given a repatriation package, including blankets, sleeping mats, plastic sheets, mosquito nets, water buckets, kitchen sets, jerry cans, soap, seeds and tools, before being transported from the transit centres to their home villages. As of mid-2008, some 60,000 Sudanese living in Uganda had been helped back home.

As of the beginning of May 2008, some 275,000 Sudanese refugees had returned to South Sudan from surrounding countries, including Uganda, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya. Some 125,000 returned with UNHCR assistance.

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South Sudan: The Long Trip Home

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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
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