Refugees International congratulates the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on its 10th anniversary of standing up for those whose human rights are under threat.
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.
Refugees International welcomes Ambassador Nikki Haley’s visits to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan, and Ethiopia this week and next, as well as her commitment to U.S. support for refugee assistance and protection in Africa. By visiting these countries, all of which are facing urgent humanitarian challenges, Ambassador Haley is playing an important and constructive role on these issues.
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.
On July 18, 2017, Refugees International President Eric Schwartz testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Multilateral International Development and Multilateral Institutions at a hearing, titled, "The Four Famines: Root Causes and a Multilateral Action Plan." In his testimony, Schwartz focused on the factors leading to famine conditions in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria.
As 43 organizations working on humanitarian and development issues in some of the world’s poorest countries, we write to ask for your support in providing an additional $1 billion in supplemental funding for fiscal year 2017 in order to adequately respond to famine and famine-like conditions across four countries.
Uganda faces one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing refugee crises. The implosion of South Sudan has forced more than 1.5 million refugees to seek asylum in the region, with Uganda host to an estimated 700,000 of them. Thousands continue to arrive daily and the United Nations Refugee Agency forecasts that 925,000 South Sudanese refugees could reach Uganda by year’s end. Of those registered through December 2016, 86 percent are women and children fleeing war, hunger, and appalling acts of gender-based violence. No emergency response is perfect, but the Ugandan government and aid agencies deserve great credit for receiving South Sudanese refugees in a dignified and protective manner.
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.
Refugees International condemns South Sudan’s announcement on January 11 that it will reject a regional protection force mandated by the United Nations Security Council. The South Sudanese government has shown itself both unwilling to and incapable of protecting its citizens, necessitating a robust response by the international community.
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.
We, the undersigned organizations, continue to be alarmed by the drastic humanitarian situation in South Sudan, with the Famine Early Warning Systems Network reporting increasing death rates and a deepening humanitarian catastrophe. While the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity may be an important step, its first actions must be to end the fighting that continues and to provide immediate unimpeded humanitarian access throughout the country to alleviate the suffering of the South Sudanese people. Progress on these issues should be a key test of the new government in determining whether the international community should provide financial support in the coming months.
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.