TO BE VERIFIED: Refugees at the Bidibidi Reception Centre in Yumbe, Northern Uganda.

The refugee numbers from South Sudan have hit the 1.5 million mark, with the world refugee agency, the UNHCR saying it needs about US$782 million for regional operations inside South Sudan and the neighbouring host countries, this year.

According to the UNHCR, an additional 2.1 million people are displaced inside South Sudan since conflict erupted in the world’s newest country in December 2013.

“We are appealing on all parties involved in the conflict for an urgent peaceful resolution of the crisis, without which, thousands continue to arrive in South Sudan’s neighbouring countries of Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the Central African Republic every day with the conflict now in its fourth year.

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With this large-scale displacement, South Sudan is now Africa’s largest refugee crisis and the world’s third after Syria and Afghanistan – with less attention and chronic levels of underfunding,” the UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler says.

Intense fighting broke out in South Sudan in July last year following the collapse of a peace deal between the government and opposition forces. More than 760,000 refugees fled the country in 2016, as the conflict intensified in the second half of the year – on an average of 63,000 people were forced to leave the country per month. Some half a million had to flee in the last four months since September 2016. More than 60 per cent of the refugees are children, many arriving with alarming levels of malnutrition – enduring devastating impact of the brutalities of the ongoing conflict.
Recent new arrivals report suffering inside South Sudan with intense fighting, kidnappings, rape, fears of armed groups and threats to life, as well as acute food shortage.

‘As the global displacement trends reflect, those fleeing South Sudan are being hosted by the poorest communities in the neighbouring countries, under immense pressure with scarce resources,’ Mr Spindler adds.

The majority of the refugees are being hosted by Uganda, where some 698,000 have arrived. Ethiopia is hosting some 342,000, while more than 305,000 are in Sudan and some 89,000 in Kenya, 68,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 4,900 in the Central African Republic.

UNHCR is encouraged by the welcome South Sudan refugees have received in the neighbouring countries… we are working with authorities in South Sudan’s neighbouring countries to provide life-saving support and look after the basic needs of those arriving in desperate conditions. However, our relief efforts are being hampered by severe underfunding.

We are renewing our call on donor countries to step up support to the humanitarian efforts for the South Sudan crisis situation. Response capacities are over stretched in host countries and chronic underfunding is affecting life-saving efforts like the provision of clean drinking water, food, health facilities and sanitation. The 2016 UNHCR funding appeal of US$649 million was funded a merely 33%,’ according to the UNHCR.

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