Danish contribution brings help to the forgotten refugees from South Sudan

More than 8 out of 10 refugees from South Sudan, the largest refugee crisis on the African continent, are women and children – and they suffer from consequences of serious underfunding.

32-year old Betty Leila fled South Sudan in 2016 and is now living in the Bidibidi refugee settlement in Uganda. Here, she cares for her four children and two nieces as well as the six unaccompanied children, all under the age of 15, who she met during the flight. She is now their foster mother. © UNHCR/Catherine Robinson

14-year old Tabu Sunday left behind her parents and her home, when she and her two siblings fled South Sudan, brutal violence and a raging conflict in the summer of 2017.

“Where I was living they were killing people,” said Tabu, who had to walk for days before finally reaching Uganda. She could then rest in safety as refugee number one million to cross the border to the neighboring country.

Since then, the number of refugees fleeing the ongoing conflict in the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, have continued to increase, putting pressure on the already underfunded refugee response. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) recently allocated DKK 10.5 million from Denmark’s Emergency Reserve Fund to support the South Sudan refugee situation.

With the conflict now entering its sixth year, more than 2.2 million people have been forced to flee and seek refuge in six neighboring countries: The Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. And the faces of this still growing, yet forgotten refugee crisis are certainly those of children and youth – many of them fleeing alone like Tabu and her siblings.

63 pct. of the South Sudanese refugees are under 18 years old, which makes child protection and education among the top priorities in the response. The consequences of the underfunding are nevertheless evident: High rates of children suffering from Acute and Severe Acute Malnutrition are reported in several host countries. In DRC, only 21 pct. of the children identified as unaccompanied or separated are assisted. In Uganda, only one caseworker per 150 children makes it impossible to ensure the quality of child protection services and the adequate follow-up action.

14-year old Tabu in Uganda is a dedicated student and has high hopes for her education, mathematics being her favorite subject, but she finds it a struggle with more than 200 other students in her class – and many South Sudanese children face similar situations. The average teacher-student ratios are 1 to 84 in Kenya and 1 to 80 in Uganda – but half of the school-aged children don’t even have access to basic primary or secondary education.

With the emergency contribution from Denmark, UNHCR is able to strengthen the protection of the many children uprooted by the conflict, including addressing the gaps in provision of proper nutrition, access to education and adequate health care for children. The contribution will also help UNHCR deliver food, ensure drinking water and improve sanitation facilities, e.g. in Sudan where almost 80,000 refugees are living in camps without adequate access to latrines.

“With the number of children and youth displaced from South Sudan and now living in dire conditions, lacking basic aid and missing school, we are facing several lost generations if the support and response is not stepped up. This generous support from Denmark helps UNHCR to do just that. The Danish funding enables UNHCR to strengthen the protection efforts, including for the vulnerable children, and to continue the provision of lifesaving aid,” says Henrik M. Nordentoft, UNHCR’s Regional Representative for Northern Europe.

14-year old Tabu Sunday was registered as refugee no 1 million to flee South Sudan to Uganda in summer of 2017. © UNHCR/Peter Caton

South Sudanese refugee children attending classes in a temporarily constructed elementary school in Bidibidi refugee settlement in Northern Uganda. © UNHCR/Jiro Ose

Denmark as a donor to UNHCR

Denmark has long ranked among UNHCR’s top ten donors, and was UNHCR’s 6th largest donor of unearmarked funding in 2017.

Denmark annually contributes with an Emergency Reserve Fund of DKK 50.5 million at the start of every year, which UNHCR can allocate to where the needs are most urgent. The flexibility of the fund allows UNHCR to respond to emergencies, which saves lives and assists displaced people with critical protection needs and acute basic necessities. In 2018, a total of five allocations has been made from the fund to operations covering the following situations: DRC (DKK 10M), Venezuela (DKK 10M), South Sudan (DKK 10.5M), Somalia (DKK 10M) and Burundi (DKK 10M).

Denmark’s other flexible contribution includes DKK 160 million in unearmarked funding. This is of vital importance to support the so-called “forgotten” refugee situations, which are critically underfunded as they attract minimal public attention.