Sister UN agencies seek safe access to vulnerable people and refugees in South Sudan

News Stories, 2 May 2014

© UNHCR / P. Rulashe
Young Sudanese refugees in Yusuf Batil, one of the camps in Maban County.

JUBA, South Sudan, May 2 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency and the World Food Programme on Friday called on parties to the conflict in South Sudan to provide safe access to enable humanitarian assistance to reach vulnerable people, including 125,000 Sudanese refugees in Upper Nile State's Maban County.

"There is still time to deliver stocks of food by road, with massive economies of scale, if safe access is guaranteed. Without access by road, costly air operations will become the only recourse for providing urgently needed humanitarian assistance," the two agencies said in a joint press release.

Resupplying refugee camps in Maban has been complicated by continued insecurity and fighting along the supply routes, preventing the World Food Programme (WFP) from conducting regular delivery of critical food supplies to refugees. As a result, the agency and its partners have been forced to distribute reduced rations in March and April to refugees who depend largely on this food assistance for their survival.

Refugees are resorting to negative coping mechanisms like selling off non-food items, and burning construction wood to produce charcoal for sale. "At the same, time there are disturbing reports that at least 200 refugees have returned to war-torn Blue Nile state in the Republic of Sudan in search of food and other basic supplies," the press release said.

"This could be the beginning of a worrying trend which we are powerless to prevent if the provision of food and other critical supplies continues to be erratic and inconsistent," said Cosmas Chanda, UNHCR's representative in South Sudan. Underscoring the urgency of pre-positioning adequate food supplies for the coming six months, he added, "Roads to Maban are facing imminent closure for the duration of the rainy season, which has already started."

UNHCR is deeply concerned that increasing malnutrition rates among refugee children in all four camps are approaching the emergency threshold of 15 per cent. There are indications that, in Doro camp acute malnutrition rates have soared in February and March.

WFP will this week distribute the last remaining food stocks in Maban County to refugees in the camps. These food rations will last the refugees less than a week, while WFP uses aircraft to bring additional food to the camps within the next five days. More than 2,300 tonnes of food is needed each month to assist the Sudanese refugees and vulnerable host communities in Maban.

"We have food supplies that could reach the refugee camps within days by road, but ongoing fighting along key supply routes is preventing us from delivering sufficient stocks into Maban County to assist refugees," said Mike Sackett, WFP's acting country director in South Sudan.

"We are prioritizing available planes and helicopters to deliver food to refugees and South Sudanese populations affected by the crisis. Ultimately, regaining road access to Maban County and to other communities isolated by conflict is critical to averting a humanitarian catastrophe in South Sudan," he added.

Humanitarian organizations have faced severe challenges in accessing many parts of the country by road and river. Insecurity and fighting have been key obstacles, but even in areas where there has not been active conflict, commercial transporters hired by agencies have at times faced banditry and other attacks, excessive checkpoints and demands for bribes.

WFP is using a combination of airlifts and airdrops in remote, hard-to-reach areas, overcoming severe challenges including looting and continued fighting.

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

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.

Donate to this crisis

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: 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.

Posted on 16 July 2008

South Sudan: The Long Trip Home

South Sudan Crisis: One Year OnPlay video

South Sudan Crisis: One Year On

Uganda: A Father's TroublesPlay video

Uganda: A Father's Troubles

Forty-five-year-old Gabriel fled South Sudan with his wife and children to find safety in the UN compound in Bor. But, in April 2014, his wife was killed when an armed mob forced their way in, and now he is a single father to five children, seeking a better life in Uganda.
South Sudan: Adut's strugglePlay video

South Sudan: Adut's struggle

Thousands in war-torn South Sudan have lost their homes and livelihoods. When seventeen year old Adut lost her parents, she also lost her childhood by taking on the role of mom and dad for her young siblings. But, despite the everyday struggle, she is finding new skills and new hope in exile.