Five years on, since the onset of a brutal civil war, over 2.2 million South Sudanese refugees have sought safety in six neighboring countries Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR). Another 1.9 million remain internally displaced inside South Sudan.
UNHCR observed that there has been a relative reduction in violence in parts of the country since the signing of the revitalized peace agreement in September 2018 but however made a strong appeal to all parties to continue to respect and implement the agreement. Given a history of past breaches to peace initiatives however, UNHCR said it is yet to view the current environment in South Sudan as being conducive for safe returns of refugees.
“We also commend the continued generosity of host countries in maintaining open borders for South Sudanese refugees seeking safety, especially given the immense pressures on the limited resources of asylum countries. Due to the scale of displacement, levels of funding have been far outpaced by rising needs. Hugely more international support and solidarity is urgently needed for South Sudanese refugees”.
“Schools are lacking teachers, classrooms, and educational materials leaving half of South Sudan’s refugee children out of school. Health clinics have insufficient doctors, nurses and medications. Low funding has led to food rations being cut in Ethiopia”.
In Sudan, some refugees and their host communities are having to survive on merely five liters of water per person per day, inevitably leading to tensions as the economic opportunities for refugees to develop their own income streams remain limited.
Sexual and gender-based violence and child protection activities remain primary concerns, as 83% of refugees are women and children. Many women have reported rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, along with the killings of their husbands, and the abduction of children during flight.
Children too have in many cases experienced extreme violence and trauma, including the death of one or both parents. Many have become primary caregivers to younger siblings. Thousands of children have been forcibly recruited as child soldiers by armed groups. In 2018, UNHCR and partners said it received just 38% of the $1.4 billion requested to support South Sudanese refugees.