The Disasters Emergency Committee is warning that a toxic mix of drought and violent conflict in South Sudan is fuelling the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. It points out that a staggering 6,000 people a day were forced to flee South Sudan to safety in neighbouring Uganda last month - that’s four refugees every minute. There are now more refugees fleeing to Uganda than across the Mediterranean.
Chronic food insecurity, a severe lack of clean water and ongoing fighting have led to an alarming acceleration in the rate of mass displacement in the region with many people from South Sudan seeking refuge in Uganda and other drought-affected countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya - putting a huge burden on a region that is already poor and which has limited resources to cope.
More than half a million people have fled South Sudan in the past eight months, many of them women and children. And the UNHCR estimates that this number will reach one million by the end of this year, rising from 1.6 million now to almost 2 million. A further 1.9 million people are displaced within South Sudan.
Many displaced people report walking hundreds of miles and up to two months through the bush in search of food, water and safety – some carrying their new-born children on their backs and going without food for days on end.
DEC charities and other humanitarian partners are working to contain the displacement and alleviate the suffering in East Africa. But to do so, life-saving assistance must reach people affected without delay, alongside efforts by the international community for long-lasting peace and stability.
Monica Blagescu, DEC Programme Director, said: “With a sharp rise in malnutrition rates, an increase in the loss of livestock and soaring local food prices the situation for vulnerable communities in parts of South Sudan has become intolerable – forcing them to migrate in growing numbers.
“We must act now if we are to prevent whole communities being displaced. If not, people will face even greater difficulty in rebuilding their lives.”
Some of the consequences of forced migration include:
- Huge strain on resources for host communities
- Spread of communicable diseases in overcrowded settlements with poor sanitation and a shortage of clean water
- Enormous burden on women to find food and other essentials for their families leaving them more at risk of violence and abuse
- No access to school for children leaving them to grow up without an education
- Rise in intercommunal conflict as people and livestock cross borders stretching limited water and pasture resources
- Increase in conflict between pastoralists and farmers fuelled by a higher density of animals at water sources
“People who are displaced are increasingly at risk of disease, violence and exploitation,” said Monica Blagescu.
“Mass displacement exacerbates poverty and can cause the breakdown of family and community structures leaving people in much greater need than before. We must not delay our efforts if we want to prevent further pain and suffering.”
To make a donation to the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal, visit www.dec.org.uk, call the 24-hour hotline on 0370 60 60 610, donate over the counter at any high-street bank or post office, or send a cheque. You can also donate £5 by texting the word SUPPORT to 70000.
Notes to editors:
- South Sudan’s civil war, which erupted more than three years ago, has displaced more than 3.5 million people both inside and outside the country. 4.9 million people inside the country are going hungry with 100,000 facing famine
- DEC Programme Director Monica Blagescu is available for interview
- High resolution photos and B-roll of refugee settlements and migration of people in South Sudan are also available
- Media enquiries please call 020 7387 0200 or 07930 999 014 (out of hours).
- The DEC brings 13 leading UK aid charities together in times of crisis: ActionAid, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Oxfam, Plan International UK, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision; all collectively raising money to reach those in need quickly.
- All DEC agencies will support the appeal and are responding in East Africa.
- To make a postal donation make cheques payable to ‘DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal’ and mail to ‘PO Box 999, London, EC3A 3AA’.
- Donations can be made at any high-street bank and at Post Office counters.
- To donate £5 by text send the word SUPPORT to 70000. The full £5 will go to the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal. Donors must be 16 years or over and have bill payers’ permission. Texts are free and donations will be added to the bill.