Senior Advocate for Human Rights Daniel P. Sullivan briefs the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on the ongoing peace process in South Sudan.
A year after South Sudan signed a peace agreement to end the country’s devastating civil war, a staggering one-third of its population is still displaced. Little of the peace agreement has been implemented, and failure to address key issues, including relocation and disarmament of soldiers and disenfranchisement of ethnic minorities, could revive the devastating violence seen in recent years. As peace hangs in the balance, South Sudan’s displaced people fear returning home.
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.
This was a year of new beginnings and the start of an exciting opportunity as I took on the leadership of Refugees International. But as I begin this gratifying new chapter of my own professional life, I am fully aware that for millions of refugees and displaced people around the world, 2017 was a devastating year.
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.
The flood of people fleeing South Sudan, coupled with delays and constraints on funding, has led to a shortfall in food rations to refugees.
According to agencies working on the ground in Uganda, where most of the refugees have been arriving from the conflict across the border, food supply lines are being shut down and distribution of aid is becoming increasing irregular.
The UN’s World Food Programme said it had been forced to cut the amount of grain handed out due to delayed funding, with cash transfers offered to refugees to make up the shortfall.
“When the funding comes late it takes a bit longer to secure the cereals. It means that you have to go to the markets to procure, transport, store and distribute,” said El Khidir Daloum, WFP director for Uganda.
In the past fortnight, South Sudanese refugees at Nyumanzi settlement in Adjumani, which hosts about 20,000 people, protested in front of officials from the prime minister’s office.
Titus Jogo, refugee desk officer in Adjumani, said that they had to calm people down and explain that, while the WFP did not have enough cereal stocks this month, money would be provided instead so that people could buy food at the local market.
Andie Lambe, executive director at International Refugee Rights Initiative, said: “Our understanding is that the ration cuts this month were as a result of a break in the food pipeline within WFP and that these cuts are both temporary and that the gap was substituted with a cash equivalent of the missing ration. In addition, WFP assured us that this would not be applied to recent arrivals and vulnerable households.
“The refugees are dependent on handouts due to the lack of alternatives for them to support themselves. When rumours of rations being permanently cut or stopped altogether are combined with actual cuts and without clear explanation being given for this, tensions will increase and it is not unreasonable for refugees to voice their disquiet.”
The sheer scale of the disaster, in which more than 86% of refugees are women and children, means that strains have been put on already scarce resources.
“Uganda is dealing with a refugee crisis of historic proportions and the country and its humanitarian partners have not been able to meet the needs of one million South Sudanese who have sought protection from violence in a relatively short amount of time,” said Francisca Vigaud-Walsh of Refugees International.
“Uganda has an exemplary refugee policy and has done what it can to provide safe harbour and land to refugees, but the needs of refugees outstrip the capacity of humanitarian responders, given that the funding simply isn’t there,” she said.
In May this year, WFP was forced to cut food rations to refugees in the east African nation by 50% due to severe funding shortages. The agency need an estimated $167m (£126m) to provide aid through to the end of the year, but donors contributed only $30m as of September.
“Every month we need $20m to feed the refugees in Uganda. For the next six months we have a shortage of $62m to $85m for refugees,” said Daloum. “We know what it takes to secure those resources, but at the same time, this is a life-saving issue.”
The Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, and the UN secretary general, António Guterres, hosted a summit in June in Kampala to call for action for South Sudanese refugees, with $674m needed to support them in 2017. However by August, only 21% of that sum had been raised.
This piece originally appeared here
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.
J. Peter Pham, Vice President for Research and Regional Initiatives and Director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, and Michel Gabaudan, President of Refugees International, discuss with host Carol Castiel what is being dubbed the greatest humanitarian crisis since 1945, as conflict exacerbates famine in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Northern Nigeria.
View the original video here.
Read the original article and listen to the story here.
The buses line up at the Invepi refugee camp in northern Uganda.
One after the other they drop off dozens of South Sudanese seeking refuge on this side of the border.
They come off carrying whatever possessions they still have: sometimes that means empty plastic jugs, sometimes it means chickens that provide food along the way. Many of the refugees are barefoot. When they've finished with their registration and vaccinations, some just sit there, staring into space.
As the fighting in South Sudan has intensified, so has the flow of refugees to Uganda. Just over the past week, Invepi went from receiving about 1,000 refugees a day to about 3,000.
Many of these women are fleeing from "war, hunger and appalling acts of gender-based violence," said Refugees International, a humanitarian organization that advocates for displaced people, in a statement on Friday. "We are yet again seeing the use of rape and other forms of violence against women fleeing South Sudan."
Angurese, 14, lives about at the Bidibidi refugee camp in Uganda, about two hours away from the nearest paved road. NPR is only using first names of refugees to protect their security.
She sits inside a mud hut holding her baby son. She says that over the past few months, fighting between the Dinkas and Nuers, the two biggest ethnic groups in South Sudan, had gotten really bad around her home right outside of Lainya, a village southwest of Juba. At one point, she says, the fighters even started attacking civilians.
"When the Dinkas come, they either slaughter you with the knife or they cut you with a machete, so we're now running away because we could not wait," she says.
The only midwife in town took off. And Angurese's mother told her she had no choice but to follow the midwife because at that time, she was pregnant.
Fatuma, the midwife, says their group walked four days through the bush. South Sudan has been an ethnic battleground on and off for decades, but Fatuma says this conflict is different. She says she saw young pregnant women raped — and the road in front of her house had become a killing field.
"They used not to kill women but these days now they're killing women, children, elderly even the pastors, the bishops, they don't spare us," she says.
It wasn't long ago that the world had high hopes for South Sudan.
In 2011, amid massive celebrations, it became the world's newest independent nation. But just a few years later, South Sudan's president Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, accused his vice president Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer, of planning a coup. As Kiir's Dinka troops disarmed and attacked Machar's Nuer fighters, the country quickly descended into a civil war.
The situation for women and children is bleak: Human rights groups have documented fighters raping girls and sexually mutilating boys by castrating them. Both sides have abducted over 3,000 children for use as soldiers since 2013, according to the U.N.
Jerry Farrell, South Sudan country director for the aid group Catholic Relief Services, says in most conflicts, it is women and children who suffer most. But the number of them being displaced in this conflict is "extremely high."
He says that in a lot of ways the civilians in South Sudan have been caught in a perfect storm: Conflict has combined with an economic collapse and a bad drought.
The number of women and children affected, he says, is also testing the aid response. For example, it's become clear that his group's efforts to help that population would have to be scaled up many times over to meet the needs of the displaced.
He says that many children, for example, are not being educated, because much of the aid simply goes toward keeping people alive by feeding them.
"So the long term prospects of the country are grim," he says.
Cecilia Tabu is a case worker for the aid group Save the Children. She works with South Sudanese children at Camp Rhino in Uganda. A big part of her job is to find foster families for children who flee South Sudan on their own.
She moves through the vast camp talking to families and checking up on those who have been placed in foster homes.
On a recent day, she stops to visit Kani Jane. Kani Jane came with two children of her own — then began accepting foster kids. Now, she lives with 13 children in a small mud hut that the older kids built.
Tabu points to one of the little ones — 6-year-old Santo, whose parents took whatever money they had saved and sent him off to search for a refugee camp. It might seem unfathomable that young children can find the camps on their own, but they usually find an older kid or an adult to tag along with.
"The father just sent him to come, so sometimes he doesn't talk," she says.
She calls Ludiya, one of the young people in her care. She gives her a smile and asks how she's doing. When Ludiya was 17 last year, her mother did not have enough money for the whole family to flee. So she sent Ludiya off with four younger kids.
Now, she has peace, but she doesn't have her mother, she says. And while she is in school, she sits in a classroom with dozens of other students. Some classes have more than 100 kids.
Tabu, the case worker, says that many of the children are traumatized and have yet to come to terms with what they've witnessed. She says some of the kids still don't have shoes and at school they don't have educational materials.
But here in Uganda, she says, they have a chance. She knows that from personal experience. Back in the '90s, when Tabu was 13 and war was raging between north Sudan and south Sudan, her parents sent her off to Uganda on her own. She landed in Camp Rhino.
It was hard, she says, but she was safe and eventually managed to reunite with her parents and go to college.
Tabu walks from the family's house in the camp to a big playground built by Save the Children.
When the playground first opened, Tabu says, the kids would fight along ethnic lines. But slowly, Tabu and other case workers helped them understand how to solve problems without violence.
It's simple things, she says, pointing at the swing set, where there's a long line of kids waiting their turn. Each one counts to ten swings, they jumps off and give the other one a turn.
Tabu smiles as she watches the kids play tag through a cloud of dust. They slide and they swing and they chase a football.
For that moment at least, the world here feels normal.
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.
As human rights, humanitarian, and peacebuilding organizations, we call on the UN Security Council to impose an immediate arms embargo on South Sudan.