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Image by James Wiseman

Internal Displacement of South Sudanese Civilians

Exploring key factors behind a growing refugee crisis

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on July 2011 as the outcome of a 2005 agreement that ended Africa's longest-running civil war. This makes it the world's newest country.

A decade after independence South Sudan still faces internal conflict, political instability, food insecurity, inter-communal violence, and armed confrontations. Combined, those phenomena have led to massive displacement of civilians. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that 2.2 million South Sudanese have been displaced within the territory, with as many as another 2.3 million currently living as refugees in neighboring States. Certain groups of displaced civilians, including women, children, the elderly, and people with illnesses or disabilities, are particularly vulnerable. They are severely affected in such situations, as displacement often reduces access to relevant resources and assistance and exacerbates their risk of experiencing violence, discrimination, and marginalization. Displacement in South Sudan is predominantly prompted by armed conflict, inter-communal violence, and natural causes such as droughts or floods. This blog article examines the key variables that have forced internally displaced people (IDPs) to flee their homes and shelter within protected camps.

Floods in South Sudan ©MSF/Tetiana Gaviuk

Extreme weather conditions threaten the well-being of camp residents. In Bentiu, for example, erosion and heavy rainfall are slowly destroying the dikes protecting IDPs’ homes against flooded rivers, exposing thousands of vulnerable people to homelessness or destruction of property. IDPs camps in South Sudan are highly dependent on humanitarian aid and mostly funded by civil society organizations and United Nations (UN) specialized agencies.

However, resources are limited, and IDPs’ assistance needs could hardly be met in 2022, due to underfunding of the main humanitarian actors involved in South Sudan. Indeed, in a recent publication, the UNHCR highlighted that the current global economic and political context, including a rise in the number of forcibly displaced civilians caused by the Ukrainian crisis, had led to an explosion of the UNHCR “needs-based budget”, resulting in an important funding gap for other displaced communities across the world. With a funding gap of 134 million dollars for South Sudan, the UN agency warns that a restriction of its operations could have a dramatic impact on IDPs in the country. Indeed, many still depend on basic humanitarian aid, including core relief, protection, shelter, relocation, provision of medical services, education, and support for economic self-reliance.

PEJ recently concluded a project supporting human rights defenders in South Sudan. As part of our activities in closing out this project, we will publish a series of blog articles relating to the refugee crisis within South Sudan. We will discuss the causes of displacement and the situation in the camps for internally displaced people. We hope this will help raise awareness of the fight for human rights in the country.

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