South Sudan hits dire milestone of more than 100,000 new arrivals to the country fleeing violence in Sudan
During his visit to the country this week, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency’s Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, Raouf Mazou, urges the international community to not forget about South Sudan, as the number of recorded new arrivals surpassed the 100,000 mark.
Since the start of the conflict in Sudan on April 15, thousands have fled across the border daily to South Sudan, the majority of whom are South Sudanese returnees who are now coming back to the country they had once been forced to flee. They are arriving alongside refugees from Sudan and various other nationalities, all of whom the government has generously welcomed.
“The South Sudan situation is unique. The vast majority of people arriving are South Sudanese who are coming back to their country of origin, compelled by circumstances, returning to communities that are still impacted by insecurity, with very limited services and infrastructure. Many families told us they are eager to reach their home communities while also worried about what they will find when they get there,” says Raouf Mazou during his visit to Renk, the epicentre of the emergency in South Sudan, together with the acting UN Humanitarian Coordinator South Sudan, senior officials from the Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs and representatives from donor countries.
The majority of those fleeing the violence are arriving after long, difficult journeys, in remote border towns like Renk, where prices for basic items have skyrocketed as many goods remain scarce in the northern parts of the country, further complicating the situation for the tens of thousands still stuck in these areas.
UNHCR and IOM are co-leading the response with the government, and together with partners are monitoring 27 border points across the country and have set up transit centres in key locations to provide vulnerable new arrivals with immediate life-saving support. Teams on the ground are providing water, communal shelters, health services, food, WASH services, core relief items, and protection services. A priority is to facilitate onward movement for new arrivals to their places of origin or destination of choice. But this is not an easy feat in South Sudan, where most travel is only possible by river or air. Furthermore, South Sudan’s rainy season is fast approaching, threatening to further impact the country’s already limited road infrastructure.
“The response from South Sudan government has been exemplary, they have kept the borders open and welcomed all people arriving. Yet, these areas are incredibly remote and hard to access. Should people be unable to move from the border, we are facing an even more costly and complex humanitarian response and a potential dire humanitarian situation with the upcoming rainy season,” says Mazou.
A major concern is the wider humanitarian impact of a large unplanned influx of returnees to South Sudan - a country that is still reeling from the devastation of its brutal civil war and that is suffering from a deep humanitarian crisis. Over three quarters of the population was already deemed to be in need of humanitarian aid prior to the crisis in Sudan.
Those returning to their areas of origin or destinations of choice, are likely to go back to communities that are already extremely fragile as a result of climate change, conflict, and food insecurity. South Sudan has now seen four years of historic flooding with water overwhelming ancestral homes, farmlands, and the transhumance routes cattle herders have followed for thousands of years, impacting crop yields and killing livestock, fuelling the country’s economic and food crises. Many communities in South Sudan are already permanently displaced by climate change, and new arrivals may come back unable to recognize or access the areas they once left.
As fighting in Sudan continues, arrivals are expected to increase and there is an urgent need to scale up the humanitarian response. UNHCR and partners are appealing for USD 96 million in South Sudan to support life-saving activities for those arriving from Sudan and ensure that country’s humanitarian crisis does not deteriorate further as the impacts of the crisis in Sudan spreads to its neighbours.
For more information, please contact:
In Juba, Charlotte Hallqvist, [email protected], +211 925 580 098
In Nairobi (regional), Faith Kasina, [email protected], +254 113 427 094
In Geneva, Olga Sarrado, [email protected], +41 79 740 23 07