To date, OCHA (UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) has reported that since the outbreak of the Sudan conflict on Sat 15th April, approximately 334,000 people have been internally displaced, and over 120,000 people have fled the intense violence, seeking safety in neighbouring countries including Chad, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and the Central African Republic. Approximately 528 civilian deaths have also been recorded, with an additional 4,600 people injured.
Since the conflict erupted, South Sudan has received over 35,800 refugees through a border crossing in Renk County, Upper Nile State in the northeast. 91% of these refugees are South Sudanese returnees, while the remainder are migrants from Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, and Eritrea, among other countries, seeking safe passage to their home countries through South Sudan. Countries neighbouring Sudan were already hosting large refugee and internally displaced populations.
GOAL has worked with conflict-affected people and displaced populations in both Sudan and South Sudan for over thirty years. The organisation is one of a small number of agencies with existing operations at Renk, which is one of the main entry points from Sudan.
GOAL’s existing operation in Renk County includes a nutrition project in 15 sites funded by UNICEF and WFP. This has allowed GOAL to respond quickly to the needs of vulnerable refugees, including elderly and disabled individuals, pregnant women, female heads of households with young children and large families, and other at-risk individuals. Markets prices of foods and different items have also increased, with triple the price and other items running short in the area as most of the items were imported from Sudan, and imports from Sudan have been halted, so supplies for Renk will need to be transported via air or river barges.
Phyllis Jepkorir, Country Director for GOAL South Sudan, said, “GOAL is committed to supporting refugees and returnees arriving into Renk, and it is estimated that up to 3,000 are arriving every day. However, this influx of migrants is expected to overwhelm local and already fragile health facilities and nutrition services. These refugees and returnees are also extremely vulnerable”.
“Women are particularly vulnerable,” Phyllis Jepkorir continued. “Women-led organisations in Sudan have noted that reported cases of sexual violence are surging, particularly among displaced people who are on the move. Gender-Based Violence (GBV) services in Sudan have also been severely disrupted by the conflict, especially in Khartoum, Blue Nile State, and Darfur. Our priority is to distribute much-needed non-food items and nutritional support to refugees and returnees coming into South Sudan, while also mainstreaming gender-based violence protection into our programming.”
GOAL South Sudan is currently supporting refugees by distributing supplies provided by UNICEF and WFP. Two nutrition response sites have been established on the border, and GOAL teams are screening refugees and returnees for malnutrition, providing supplementary nutritional support to children and pregnant or lactating mothers, and have distributed hot meals to approximately 5,000 people on daily basis.
Jessica Cope, Country Director for GOAL Sudan (now based in Nairobi), said: “The violence in Khartoum shows no signs of abating, and another humanitarian crisis is developing on the border with South Sudan as a result. GOAL is actively pursuing additional funding to meet the priority needs of displaced people, which include non-food items such as cooking utensils, bedding, mosquito nets, soap, dignity kits, and sanitary supplies. Refugees also require WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) supplies such as water tanks, buckets, and jerry cans. And we are targeting pregnant and lactating mothers with nutritional support and cash voucher assistance.”