[box] A young South Sudanese refugee cooks food at a camp in northern Uganda[/box]
– As South Sudan quickly becomes Africa’s largest refugee and humanitarian crisis, the world must come to its aid, said the UN refugee agency.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has launched a global appeal to support displaced persons amid South Sudan’s rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation.
“The human cost of the South Sudan conflict has reached epic proportions,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
“The conflict is purging South Sudan of the people who should be the greatest resource of a young nation. They should be building the country, not fleeing it,” he continued.
Now in its fifth year, the conflict in South Sudan has displaced 1 in 3 of the country’s population with over 2 million fleeing the nation.
The number of refugees is projected to surpass the 3 million mark by the end of 2018, making South Sudan Africa’s largest refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide.
On Jan. 30, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also launched an appeal for 103.7 million dollars this year to provide lifesaving relief assistance, support recovery and migration of people affected by conflict in South Sudan.
The insecurity and violence, which erupted in 2013, has also fueled famine conditions and a humanitarian crisis which has left seven million people in need of assistance.
“As civilians continue to bear the brunt of the crisis, experiencing violence and displacement, timely and effective humanitarian assistance is critical,” said IOM South Sudan Chief of Mission William Barriga.
“IOM remains committed to responding to these needs and reaching the most vulnerable, wherever they are,” he said.
Meanwhile, UNHCR launched a 3.2-billion-dollar appeal to help both internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees who have fled to neighboring countries such as Uganda.
Grandi lauded Uganda’s “open border” policy which has welcomed almost 500 refugees per day.
“Uganda has the most progressive refugee policies in Africa, if not the world,” he said.
[box] South Sudanese twins, Jacob and Simon, meet UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, at Kakuma, Kenya. The boys walked for 21 days to reach the camp and are traumatised by the killing of their father and eldest brother. Credit: UNHCR/Georgina Goodwin[/box]
Uganda is now home to the largest refugee population in Africa, many of whom are from South Sudan.
Grandi noted that refugees often received portions of land to grow food, were allowed to work and access education, health, and judicial services.
However, if the conflict continues unabated, Uganda could end up hosting another quarter million refugees more and further strain on already limited resources.
“Please make peace,” Grandi appealed to warring parties while visiting refugee camps in Uganda.
“We can’t subject these people once again to exile, to suffering. We can’t always take for granted the generosity of the Ugandan people…everybody told me this morning, as in the past, ‘If there is peace I will go back, because this is where I belong. It’s my country.’”
Almost 90 percent of those displaced are women and children and nearly 65 percent are under the age of 18. Women have reported cases of sexual violence and other forms of violence including the abduction of children.
However, the South Sudanese refugee response program only received 33 percent of required funds in 2017.
“For as long as the people of South Sudan await peace, the world must come to their aid,” Grandi said.
First Published by Inter Press Service