UNHCR Strained as South Sudan Refugee Outflow Grows

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In short
Uganda has seen a sharp increase in refugee arrivals from South Sudan since January, sometimes as many as 800 individuals per day. In all, 28,000 South Sudanese 86 per cent of them women and children have sought refuge in Uganda

The UN refugee agency- UNHCR says it is facing a severe funding shortfall for its South Sudan operation amid a new spate of refugee outflows from the war-torn country.

In a report released Tuesday, UNHCR stated that a combination of new fighting in previously peaceful areas, food insecurity and severe humanitarian funding shortages has worsened the situation for many civilians.

Uganda, Sudan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Kenya are now reporting rising refugee inflows, at a time when operations to meet their needs are severely underfunded.

An estimated 2.3 million people have had to flee their homes since violence broke out in South Sudan in December 2013. More than 670,000 of these, are refugees in neighboring countries.

Since late January, an estimated 52,000 people have fled to Sudan, from which South Sudan gained independence in 2011, an influx that exceeds planning projections for 2016.

Uganda has seen a sharp increase in refugee arrivals from South Sudan since January, sometimes as many as 800 individuals per day. In all, 28,000 South Sudanese - 86 per cent of them women and children - have sought refuge in Uganda

The report shows that recent fighting between government and opposition forces in Western Bahr al Ghazal state displaced more than 96,000 people to Wau, a small town in the north-west of South Sudan.

"The site where the South Sudanese refugees are sheltered, Maaji III in the north-west of the country, is nearing capacity and basic life-saving services and other services are severely stretched," UNHCR spokesperson Ariane Rummery says.

"With the Regional Refugee Response Plan funded at just eight percent, many life-saving services are threatened and UNHCR is extremely concerned," spokesperson Ariane Rummery adds.

The distribution by truck in East Darfur of UNHCR relief items - including plastic sheeting, kitchen sets, sleeping mats and blankets is expected to begin today, Wednesday.

While fighting has subsided in the Western Equatoria region of South Sudan since February, some 12,000 people crossed into Democratic Republic of the Congo and sought shelter in the north-eastern province of Haut-Uélé in the past few months.

Rummery stressed that local communities there have been welcoming of the refugees, and many of those who came at the end of 2015 have found shelter with local families, "but capacities are stretched, and thousands of the more recent arrivals have settled in very precarious conditions."

The conflict in Western Equatoria has also forced thousands of South Sudanese from Source Yubu and Ezo to cross the border and to seek asylum in the Central African Republic. As of April 11, UNHCR had registered 10,454 South Sudanese refugees in the town of Bambouti, located in a difficult-to-reach area in the easternmost part of the Central African Republic.

"The new arrivals in Bambouti greatly outnumber the host community, estimated at around 950 inhabitants, putting a severe strain on resources," Rummery noted.

UNHCR led an inter-agency mission to Bambouti last month to assess the needs of the refugees, and organized a 12-truck convoy transporting food, medicine and emergency relief items, including blankets, kitchen sets and mosquito nets, which arrived on 7 April.

But, Rummery says, many refugees are suffering from malaria, waterborne diseases and malnutrition while access to potable water, food, healthcare, sanitation and shelter is urgently needed for the entire population."

UNHCR's Kakuma Operation in north-eastern Kenya has recorded a steady increase in new arrivals from South Sudan, rising from an average of 100 people a month at the start of this year to 350 people a week over the past two months.

So far, Kakuma camp hosts some 4,185 new South Sudanese refugees received in the year mostly from Eastern Equatoria, Upper Nile and Jonglei States, in the east of the country. They cite insecurity, intense famine and the high cost of living as the reasons for their flight.


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.