South Sudanese Refugees in Uganda Surpass 1 Million as South Sudan's Civil War Crisis Deteriorates

South Sudanese Refugees in Uganda Surpass 1 Million as South Sudan’s Civil War Crisis Deteriorates

A handout photo made available on 21 February 2017 by Doctors without Borders (MSF) shows medical workers consulting a child suffering from malnutrition, in Dablual, South Sudan, 13 February 2017. Photo: Doctors without Borders

The number of refugees from South Sudan who have fled to Uganda has surpassed 1 million, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has announced, reiterating calls for urgent financial support.

South Sudan, a landlocked country over 12 million people, which gained independence from Sudan only in 2011, has been in a state of civil war since 2013, seeing rampant ethnic violence.

More than 300,000 are estimated to have been killed since then in the South Sudanese Civil War fought between the factions of President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.

Over two million South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries, and another two million are believed to be internally displaced.

The UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, reiterated on Thursday its call to the international community for urgent additional support for the South Sudan refugee situation.

Aid is needed in particular for Uganda, where the number of refugees from South Sudan has now reached 1 million, it said.

The UN Refugee Agency, has chosen a 14-year-old girl, Tabu Sunday, as the symbolic 1 millionth South Sudanese refugee seeking safety in Uganda since last July, when an unprecedented surge of refugee arrivals began.

Over the past 12 months, an average of 1,800 South Sudanese have been arriving in Uganda every day.

In addition to the million there, a million or even more South Sudanese refugees are being hosted by Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.

The UN Refugee Agency points out that more than 85% of the refugees who have arrived in Uganda from South Sudan are women and children (below 18 years in age).

“Recent arrivals continue to speak of barbaric violence, with armed groups reportedly burning down houses with civilians inside, people being killed in front of family members, sexual assaults of women and girls, and kidnapping of boys for forced conscription,” the agency said.

“With refugees still arriving in their thousands, the amount of aid we are able to deliver is increasingly falling short,” it added.

The UNCHR estimated that USD 674 million is needed for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda this year, but so far only a fifth of this amount (21%) has been received.

For the entire region, USD 883.5 million is needed for the South Sudan situation, but only US 250 million has been received.

The UN agency says that the funding shortfall in Uganda is now significantly impacting the abilities to deliver life-saving aid and key basic services.

“In June, the World Food Program was forced to cut food rations for refugees. Across settlements in northern Uganda, health clinics are being forced to provide vital medical care with too few doctors, healthcare workers and medicines,” it explained.

Schooling is also being impacted, with class sizes often exceeding 200 students, with some lessons held in the open air. Many refugee children are dropping out of education as the nearest schools are too far away for them to easily access.