After a period of relative calm and despite a peace deal concluded last August, conflict in South Sudan flared up again in July 2016, forcing civilians to flee to neighbouring countries.
According to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, 26,000 refugees have crossed from South Sudan into Uganda, with most coming through the Elegu collection center managed by LWF. More than 90 percent are women and children. On 21 July, UNHCR registered a new peak number of 8,200 refugees, the majority at Elegu.
The influx is severely stretching the capacity of collection points, transit centers and reception centers. Aid workers at Elegu are unable to conduct a head count. On July 20, more than 7,000 people slept at Elegu, seven times its capacity.
New arrivals at the Adjumani refugee camp, where the LWF has operations, report continued fighting between the rival forces. Armed gunmen are reported to loot properties, forcibly recruit boys and young men, and murder civilians in Magwi.
LWF staff say the food and nutrition situation in South Sudan is deteriorating, with acute malnutrition rates above the emergency threshold of 15 percent in seven of 10 states. Some 4.8 million people are food insecure. The humanitarian situation is very difficult.
The capital, Juba, is beset by problems caused by the crisis, such as shortage of supplies, skyrocketing prices of supplies, cholera, and the challenges of meeting the needs of people who have taken refuge in church compounds and UN sites.
The LWF has received at least 12,000 of the refugees at Elegu.
LWF has built temporary shelters to accommodate new arrivals awaiting registration and transportation at Elegu, maintains water and hygiene at the collection center and provides soap and sanitary materials to all households and to women, and dignity kits for women and girls. Special attention is given to people with special needs including unaccompanied minors, separated children, people with disabilities and victims of sexual and gender based violence.
A psychosocial support desk has been created at Elegu to handle severe psychological cases. According to LWF staff, the refugees are desperate, traumatized and famished after walking for days without food.
At the LWF-managed transit center on the Kenya/South Sudan border, few refugees have yet arrived because the distance is further than that to Uganda. More new arrivals are expected in the weeks ahead.
Four international staff were evacuated from Juba on 13 July. Staff in the field, including international staff, remain in-country and are implementing some planned activities. Some Juba-based national staff have crossed borders to Uganda or Kenya to be with family. Two or three national staff are going to the office in Juba. The house of one national member of staff was looted. An LWF vehicle in Juba was hit by a stray bullet and one of the windows has been totally damaged.
After gaining its independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudanese rejoiced in unity. The peace deal ended Africa's longest-running civil war. The joy was short-lived, as the following two years provided only a short respite from conflict. In December 2013, the country slid into civil war that has divided the nation along ethnic lines. The aid agencies in the region have repeated their calls for an end to the war, which has engulfed South Sudan in what has become one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises.
Humanitarian actors have condemned violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, including attacks on churches, hospitals, aid workers and UN-protected civilian sites. The security situation remains volatile around the areas where the LWF works: Bor, Twic East, and Duk counties, Jonglei state; Ajoung Thok, Unity state; and Maban, Upper Nile state. People in these areas continue to endure conflict, which consequently, produce the largest numbers of displaced people.
Over 90 percent if displaced are in remote areas. UNOCHA estimates that up to 1.95 million internally displaced people will need humanitarian assistance in 2016.
Over 530,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries since violence broke out, straining capacities in camps in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. The LWF is active in refugee assistance to South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.
Over 260,000 refugees living in camps within South Sudan continue to rely upon humanitarian assistance. The LWF will continue to provide education and child protection assistance in Unity and Upper Nile States.
Some 100,000 are living in UN protection of civilian sites in extremely dire conditions. Around four million people will continue to need food assistance within South Sudan in 2016.