As South Sudan crisis deepens, more funds needed for refugees

UNHCR and its partners launch a major new humanitarian appeal, seeking more than US$1.4 billion to provide vital aid to those fleeing fighting and hunger.

Uganda. South Sudanese Refugees

A health worker screens a child for signs of malnutrition at a health center in Nyumanzi refugee settlement in Uganda, May 2017.  © UNHCR/Jiro Ose

GENEVA – As fighting and hunger drive ever-greater numbers of desperate refugees to flee South Sudan, UNHCR and its partners are today calling on donors to step up funding to provide life-saving aid.

The UN Refugee Agency, the World Food Programme and 57 other humanitarian agencies are seeking more than US$1.4 billion to provide food, shelter and other vital support to more than 1.8 million South Sudanese refugees through the end of 2017.

Each day 2,800 men, women and children are fleeing worsening violence and looming famine, with many arriving in surrounding countries pinched by hunger with nothing but the clothes of their back, haunted by horrific experiences.

“Besides being the largest refugee crisis in Africa ... South Sudan is one of the greatest tragedies of our time.”

“Besides being the largest refugee crisis in Africa … South Sudan is one of the greatest tragedies of our time,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told a donor conference in Geneva at which the appeal was launched on Monday (May 15).

South Sudan is the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. Among those seeking safety in Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR) are around one million children.

Grandi said refugees were reaching neighbouring countries with numerous “bad stories” cataloguing “a very long list of evils” including extortion, forced recruitment, rape and killings.

Uganda. South Sudanese Refugees

UNHCR and WFP urge donors to step up support for refugees fleeing South Sudan

A previous joint humanitarian appeal for South Sudanese refugees sought US$ 1.2 billion, but was only 14 per cent funded. Since it was made, the situation in South Sudan has continued to deteriorate.

“We cannot do a lot of the things we need to do in terms of basic relief and addressing some of the worst consequences of the incredible violence that prevails in South Sudan,” Grandi said in a subsequent interview.

In addition, refugees’ “trauma also needs to be addressed, but to do all this resources are needed.”

The current rate at which people are fleeing South Sudan exceeds the humanitarian community’s already pessimistic estimates. For example, the number of people who sought refuge in Sudan in March surpassed the expected figure for the entire year.

Uganda, meanwhile, is also seeing higher-than-expected numbers of arrivals and, at the current rate of displacement, is soon tipped to host over one million South Sudanese refugees. Many of those arriving say they have taken dangerous journeys on foot, often without food or water.

“If we get the funding we need we can stave off the danger of famine spreading.”

“If we get the funding we need we can stave off the danger of famine spreading,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley. “We urgently require additional resources to save lives and pull the country back from the brink.”

UNHCR coordinates the overall response with governments, humanitarian agencies as well as with refugees and host communities. Currently Uganda hosts some 898,000 refugees, with 375,000 in Sudan, 375,000 in Ethiopia, 97,000 in Kenya, 76,000 in DRC and 2,200 in CAR.

WFP provides food and cash assistance to more than 1.8 million refugees in the neighbouring countries.

The updated response plan does not cover humanitarian needs of around two million people displaced internally in South Sudan.