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South Sudan could be ‘overwhelmed’ by refugees, Christian Aid warns

03 May 2023

Alamy

Displaced Sudanese and foreigners arrive in Port Sudan, the country’s main port, on Saturday, having fled Khartoum after heavy fighting broke out

Displaced Sudanese and foreigners arrive in Port Sudan, the country’s main port, on Saturday, having fled Khartoum after heavy fighting broke ou...

THE crisis in Sudan could leave South Sudan “overwhelmed” by the needs of refugees, Christian Aid warned this week.

The charity believes that up to 120,000 people, including South Sudanese “returnees”, could cross the border if the conflict, which has entered its third week, continues (News, 21 April). It is estimated that between 13,000 and 20,000 people have already entered South Sudan, which is “struggling to cope”, Christian Aid reports.

On Tuesday, the UN put the total number of people who have fled to other countries at 100,000 — a figure that, it says, could reach more than 800,000. This includes people who were already refugees in Sudan — one million — from countries including Ethiopia and Eritrea. A UNHCR spokesperson, Olga Sarrado, told journalists that many of the seven neighbouring countries were already hosting large refugee and internally displaced populations: “The majority remain severely underfunded. Asylum countries will need additional support to provide protection and assistance. Among the urgent needs are water, food, shelter, healthcare, relief items, gender-based violence response and prevention, and child-protection services.”

The International Organization for Migration estimates that more than 334,000 people have been displaced in Sudan, while the UN’s humanitarian-affairs office said that aid agencies and partners were facing a “huge funding gap” of $1.5 billion. It has reported “massive looting” of the offices and warehouses of humanitarian organisations.

“Without more solidarity, like the international community showed in Ukraine, we could be overwhelmed by the plight of all those needing the essentials of food, water and medical help,” the Christian Aid South Sudan country director, James Wani, said on Tuesday. “Many women and children are sleeping out in the open at risk from violent crime and snakebites.

“There are close to one million South Sudanese people in Sudan. The existing aid programme for South Sudan this year is only a quarter funded and that’s before this latest influx of desperate people.”

The UNHCR has reported concerns that the conflict between rival security forces in Sudan will exacerbate intercommunal violence in Darfur, where sites hosting internally displaced people have already been burned to the ground. Last Friday, the Sudanese Ministry of Health put the number of dead at 512, but this is believed to be a conservative estimate. Last week, UNICEF reported that nine children had been killed in the fighting.

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