South Sudan Refugees Hit 1 Million Mark Top story

3006 Views Juba, South Sudan

In short
Most of these are women and children who include survivors of violent attacks, sexual assault, children that have been separated from their parents or traveled alone, the disabled, the elderly and people in need of urgent medical care.

The number of South Sudanese refugees sheltering in neighboring countries has this week passed the 1 million mark. Another 1.61 million people are internally displaced in the country.

The country which gained independence in 2011, now joins Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia as countries which have produced more than a million refugees. 

South Sudan refugees, who are running away from fighting triggered by disagreements among forces loyal to president Salva Kiir and his former deputy Dr Riek Machar, have found shelter in Uganda, western Ethiopia's Gambella region, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic.

Most of them are women and children who include survivors of violent attacks, sexual assault, children that have been separated from their parents or traveled alone, the disabled, the elderly and people in need of urgent medical care.

At least 185,000 of these were driven out by fresh fighting in July which triggered new waves of displacement and suffering for populations in the fledgling country.

Uganda is hosting the lion's share of South Sudanese refugees, with 373,626, more than a third of them arriving since early July, Over the past week more than 20,000 new arrivals were recorded, primarily through the Oraba border crossing in the northwest.

More than 11,000, many of them from the Nuer tribe have crossed western Ethiopia's Gambella region during the past week, bringing the number of South Sudanese refugees in that country to more than 292,000. The majority were women and children, including some 500 children traveling alone.

Most had fled from Nasser, Maban, Mathiang and Maiwut in Upper Nile. The new arrivals report increased fighting across the Greater Equatoria region and attacks by armed groups that kill civilians, loot villages, sexually assault women and girls, and recruit young boys, according to a statement by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees-UNHCR.

Neighboring Sudan with a record of 247,317 people, hosts the third largest number of South Sudanese refugees, harbored in East Darfur, South Darfur and White Nile states. Those in the two Darfurs cite growing unrest and heightened food insecurity, especially in the north-western states of Northern Bahr El Ghazal and Warrap, as their reasons for flight.

White Nile state has 41 percent of all South Sudanese refugees in Sudan. Currently, an average of nearly 1,800 people are arriving per month. Floods are preventing others from leaving South Sudan.

Smaller numbers have been fleeing to Kenya, DR Congo and Central African Republic since the return to conflict in July. About 300 people a week have been crossing into Kenya, citing insecurity, economic instability and drought and reporting that the flight corridor between Torit and Kapoeta remains dangerous due to armed bandits. Kenya has over 90,000 South Sudanese refugees.

The DR Congo is currently experiencing an influx into Ituri province close to the border with South Sudan and Uganda. An estimated 40,000 South Sudanese refugees are said to be in the country.

Charlie Yaxley, a Spokesperson of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees-UNHCR says that many arrive exhausted after days walking in the bush and going without food or water. Many children have lost one or both of their parents, some forced to become primary caregivers to younger siblings.

Yaxley adds that US$ 701 million (over 2 trillion Shillings) is needed for South Sudan refugee operations, of which 20 percent has been funded.


About the author

Sylvia Nankya
Sylvia is an Editor and Media Trainer with Uganda Radio Network. She has been a URN staff member since 2013. Sylvia has previously worked as a reporter and news anchor with Radio One (2001-2009) and with Vision Group (2009-2011). Six of her active years in Journalism were spent covering the Parliament of Uganda.

Over the past few years, Sylvia has worked to promote the positive development of societies recovering from conflict through training journalists on choices of stories, how they report issues and use of appropriate language in covering conflict and post-conflict situations.

She is an Alumni of RNTC- Holland, Les Aspin Centre for Government at Marquette University-WI, USA and a Community Solutions Fellow.