Regina Emilio was forced to flee her home after civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013. She is one of some 200,000 people living in UN-controlled Protection of Civilian (PoC) sites across the country. As a recent peace agreement muddles forward, some are talking of closing the PoC sites. But for Regina and others, the sites remain essential as conditions at home are still unsafe.
On World Humanitarian Day, Refugees International honors aid workers around the world who risk their lives in the service of others. Tragically, the places where people are most in need – whether in Yemen, northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo – are also some of the most dangerous places in the world.
It may be the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world. Almost every day for the last four months, an average of 2,000 South Sudanese refugees have made their way to neighboring Uganda. They come on buses and on foot, along dirt roads and through the bush. Day after day more arrive, with no end to the exodus in sight.
In recent weeks, the crisis facing the people of South Sudan has only worsened. Throughout the county, 1.61 million people are internally displaced, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and another 751,000 people have escaped into neighboring countries, including Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda, since conflict broke out in 2013.
The tragedy at the Terrain compound in Juba, as recently reported by the Associated Press, has shocked the humanitarian community and all those who care for the people of South Sudan. Over the course of more than four hours, armed men broke into the residential complex, killed a South Sudanese journalist employed by an aid organization, and beat and gang raped multiple foreign aid workers. Victims reportedly made multiple appeals for protection to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the US Embassy, but the peacekeepers failed to respond.
Ongoing emergency evacuations of foreign citizens from South Sudan and President Obama’s decision to deploy 47 U.S. troops to protect the U.S. Embassy and staff are stark reminders of the potential for further escalation of violence in this conflict-ridden country. A fragile ceasefire has opened a window that the UN and other international actors must utilize to address the immediate fallout, act to protect civilians, and deliver much needed humanitarian aid.
While teaching at Pima College, I had the honor of working with Amal, a young Dinka tribesman from Sudan. As an assignment, I asked my students to document their unique cultural geography. However difficult it was for Amal to discuss what he and his people experience, he put it in words. Amal has sadly passed away since the assignment. However, I would like to share his story.
In December 2013 South Sudan's capital city, Juba, exploded in violence. Fighting between troops loyal to the ousted vice president Riek Machar and those loyal to President Salva Kiir was followed by a wave of ethnic violence. As panic set in, thousands of people sought refuge in bases belonging to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Today, there are more than 100,000 displaced South Sudanese sheltering in UNMISS bases across the country.
South Sudan is continuing to reel from internal conflict that ignited in the capital Juba a little more than a year ago and quickly spread throughout the country. On December 15th, 2013, fighting erupted in Juba between soldiers loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar and those loyal to President Salva Kiir. More than one year on the fighting continues, primarily in Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile states in the north.
South Sudan is on the verge of a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. Ongoing conflict since mid-December 2013 has forced more than a million people from their homes. Tens of thousands of these displaced are seeking shelter on UN bases across the country. At one site in the capital Juba, UN Tomping, the cramped living space and flood-prone land make for a disastrous scenario.
In South Sudan, fighting between government forces and troops loyal to the former vice-president has forced more than one million people from their homes. Since December 2013, approximately 270,000 people have fled to neighboring countries. Around 800,000 more are displaced within South Sudan – including 75,000 who are sheltering in UN peacekeeping bases across the country.