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Sweden and UNHCR spotlight impact on South Sudan after a year of Sudan conflict


Sweden and UNHCR spotlight impact on South Sudan after a year of Sudan conflict

15 April 2024
A large number of new arrivals from Sudan wait in a field in South Sudan

New arrivals fleeing the conflict in Sudan gather at the Joda border crossing in South Sudan in November 2023, awaiting onward transportation to the transit site in Renk.

JUBA – UNHCR’s Deputy High Commissioner, Kelly T. Clements, and Sweden’s State Secretary for International Development Cooperation, Diana Janse, have concluded a joint visit to South Sudan, where they witnessed the impact of one of the world’s most complex and challenging humanitarian crises a year since the start of the conflict in neighbouring Sudan.

During their three-day trip, they visited Renk, where hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese returnees and Sudanese refugees have arrived since April 2023 fleeing the conflict. 

Talking to women and young people at the two transit centres that UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and partners have established and operate in Renk, they heard stories of fear and hardship of people fleeing the conflict, but also the hope that South Sudanese returnees carry with them as they return to a country many have never known. Clements and Janse witnessed the embarkation of a barge carrying hundreds of newly returned South Sudanese downriver to Malakal, on their long journey back to their communities.

“Sweden will remain engaged in supporting displaced people in South Sudan and the hundreds of thousands fleeing the crisis in Sudan,” Janse said. “In addition to our unearmarked core funding to all the main UN actors on the ground, the Swedish Government decided a few days ago to allocate 30 million SEK (US$2.9 million) specifically to the UNHCR response in South Sudan.”

“This is a lifeline for refugees and returnees, and we are deeply grateful for Sweden’s continued support,” said Clements. “It is in large-scale emergencies such as this one that the flexible funding that Sweden has long provided UNHCR becomes particularly important; without unearmarked contributions, UNHCR would not be able to respond from the start of an emergency.”

More than 640,000 people have fled to South Sudan since the conflict in Sudan started a year ago. More than half a million are South Sudanese, many of whom had never lived in South Sudan before. The crisis has put enormous pressure on the South Sudanese economy, and many returning citizens are now trying to integrate into communities that were already struggling.

According to the 2024 South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan, 75 per cent of the total population of the country requires humanitarian aid.

In Juba, the delegation met Foreign Affairs Minister James Pitia Morgan and Humanitarian Affairs Minister Albino Akol Atak Mayom, while Clements also met Vice President Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior and Interior Minister Angelina Teny. Praising South Sudan for keeping its borders open and promoting access to employment for refugees, Janse and Clements also stressed the need for the government to lead the response and provide access to basic services for its returning citizens.

“While determined to continue playing a prominent role in the humanitarian response to this crisis, at the end of the day, what we hope to see in the coming years is for South Sudan to break the pattern of over-dependency on international assistance and lead the way in the development of the country through its own resources and political energy,” said Janse, commenting on Sweden’s recent decision to phase out its bilateral development aid.

On Saturday, the two senior officials saw an example of how communities can be supported to break the dependency cycle when they visited a "Pockets of Hope" project in the south-east of the country, where many South Sudanese are returning after living in refugee settlements in Uganda.

Now with thousands of people returning to South Sudan due to the conflict in Sudan, more investments to support the communities where they are returning are needed.

More than 8.5 million people have been forcibly displaced in and outside of Sudan since the conflict started in Khartoum on 15 April 2023. Nearly 2 million have fled the country, with the highest number – some 640,000 people – entering South Sudan. On Monday, an international conference in Paris will focus attention on the crisis, search for solutions and pledge additional resources for a humanitarian response that has remained under the radar for too long. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi is attending.

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