In early July, fighting broke out across South Sudan’s Greater Equatoria region, plunging what had been the most prosperous and peaceful part of the country into war. By the end of August, over 100,000 refugees have crossed the border into Uganda, and over 1,000 continue to stream across the border each day. However, the vast majority of people are still living in Greater Equatoria, where ongoing conflict and lack of food and resources has increasingly strained living conditions. With access to most towns and villages across the region restricted, the current living conditions, intentions, and needs of the estimated 3 million people living in conflict-affected areas are unknown, and the humanitarian community has faced severe obstacles in responding to the burgeoning crisis. To fill this gap, between August 27th and 31st, REACH conducted a rapid assessment involving 8 focus group discussions (FGD) with 92 newly arrived refugees in the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Northern Uganda.
The results indicate that the Greater Equatoria region is facing an impending displacement crisis. Fighting by armed groups have driven most people out of towns in Greater Equatoria and into villages and rural areas. Most roads are now blocked by armed groups, who reportedly target any civilians trying to use them. While some necessary services, such as health facilities, water systems, and schools, are still open in a few urban centres, most of the population has fled, and the people and resources needed to operate them have been severely curtailed. In villages, where most people are hiding, services do not exist. Food is running out, resulting in people eating one meal a day or less.
Fear of continued violence means most FGD participants reported that their friends and family in the Greater Equatorias wish to leave and join their relatives in Uganda. However, the security situation currently prevents them from using the roads to cross the border. According to REACH FGDs, if the roads become unblocked a large number of those living in the conflict-affected area would cross the border and seek refuge in Uganda.
At the time of writing, only 20% of UNHCR’s requested 643 million USD to deal with this crisis has been funded. With thousands of people arriving at the border every day, the humanitarian community has limited time to prepare.
You can access the full cross-border displacement rapid assessment by following this link.
©UNHCR / F. Noy, available here.