Sudan refugees, bad weather cloud South Sudan

Sunday March 03 2024

A Sudanese refugee who is seeking refuge in Chad waits with other refugees to receive a food portion from World Food Programme (WFP), near the border between Sudan and Chad in Koufroun, Chad on May 9, 2023. PHOTO | REUTERS


South Sudan’s path to stability, including transitioning to an elected government, is facing a drag as the war in neighbouring Sudan threatens to overburden Juba, worsened by irregular weather.

This week, the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) was marking yet another anniversary since the start of a coalition government established by the 2018 peace deal between President Salva Kiir and various armed groups. RJMEC monitors pillars of that peace deal.

But the celebrations were more about listing the unachieved issues rather than successes. Maj-Gen Tai Gituai, chairman of RJMEC, told a gathering in Juba that South Sudan faces the next crucial 10 months in which it must stay the course.

“With 10 months to elections in South Sudan, it is concerning that key pre-requisite tasks have not been completed, no consensus among the Parties on the elections,” he told the diplomats in Juba on Thursday.

Read: South Sudan transition in danger of stalling

Political parties, for example, have not agreed on how to conduct elections scheduled for December, which would be the first in South Sudan’s history.


The RJMEC says there is a need to provide “resources and logistics to fully operationalise the electoral institutions with only 10 months to the scheduled elections in December.”

But the country itself is distracted. This week, aid agencies reported that more people fleeing the conflict in Sudan into South Sudan have reached alarming levels, as they face an outbreak of diseases in the cramped camps.

More than 1.7 million people have fled to other countries surrounding Sudan. In total, 10.7 million people have been displaced by the Sudan crisis.

According to the latest report by Oxfam, the influx of more than a half a million people fleeing Sudan meant that transit centres in Renk, a border town, are swelling to four times their capacity, with more than 300 people sharing one water tap.

More than 15,000 people stay in two centres designed to host only 4,750 people. Up to 5,000 people are living in the open with no access to clean water and proper hygiene. Even before the recent conflict, there were 1,027 cases of cholera in South Sudan.

Read: Sudan war worsens Abyei border crisis

Currently, 100 people share just one latrine – more than double the minimum standard.

According to Oxfam in South Sudan Country Director, Dr Manenji Mangundu said the situation in Renk is pathetic where people are crammed in shelters in horrifying conditions. Many have to queue for hours just to use clean water or a toilet.

“Without an immediate injection of funds, the situation will explode into a full-blown catastrophe, leaving many more people at risk of diseases and going hungry. The upcoming rainy season in April will cut off major roads hampering vital aid and further limiting people’s transportation to shelters,” said Mr Mangundu, compounding the already dire situation for the host community. Over 7 million people in South Sudan face extreme hunger – including 79,000 facing catastrophic levels of hunger.

This number has increased by 22 percent while people experiencing catastrophic hunger has more than doubled. Despite a surge in the number of people fleeing the conflict in Sudan and the worsening humanitarian catastrophe, funding has dwindled to an unprecedented low.

The UN appeal for South Sudan in 2023 has been slashed by half compared to previous years. Since the beginning of this year, less than four percent of $1.79 billion UN appeal has been raised.

“With major global crises attracting attention, the crisis in South Sudan is forgotten. But the world must not turn a blind eye. We are racing against time but funding cuts at this time are stretching our capacity to the limit and are a recipe for disaster. Every day of delayed action means irreversible harm to a population that already suffered years of devastation and destitution,” said Mr Mangundu.

Read:UN: Sudan war expanding to other regions

Oxfam, together with partners, has provided clean water and proper sanitation to over 70,000 people in the transit camps but urgently needs $7 million to ramp up its operations and reach 400,000 people with lifesaving food, clean water and sanitation.

The current capacity of Renk Transit Centres (Both Old and Extension - commonly referred to as TC1 and TC2 respectively) is 4,750.

TC Extension with a capacity of 2750 individuals currently host over 15,000 individuals (over 4 times its design holding capacity).
The 2024 Humanitarian Needs and Response Plan for South Sudan indicates that 9 million people will need humanitarian aid in South Sudan including more than 1.6 million children who are at risk of acute malnutrition.