The Socio-political Situation
Sudan faces significant political and security challenges, particularly in Darfur, Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and in relation to the citizenship status of people of South Sudanese origin. The country also faces considerable economic challenges that affect social conditions. The secession of South Sudan resulted in a 36.5 per cent decrease in overall revenues. Fiscal adjustment has affected service delivery, especially in peripheral areas. This, along with rising prices on fuel and key food basket items (partly due to lower food production caused by poor harvests), has increased vulnerability among poor Sudanese households, especially in rural and peripheral areas.
In Darfur, the security environment varies between and within states. Although the overall level of fighing in Darfur appears to have decreased compared with previous years, fighting continues between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and armed movements in some areas, such as eastern Jebel Marra. During the first nine months of 2011, UNAMID reported 340 people killed as a result of fighting between the SAF and armed movements, and 85 deaths from inter-tribal fighting. In contrast, the security situation has improved in other areas, particularly in West Darfur, enabling around 60,000 combined returns of IDPs and refugees from Chad to return to areas of origin during the first nine months of 2011. Some progress has been made on the political front. The Government and one of the smaller armed movements, the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), signed a peace accord on 14 July 2011. More political progress with the major armed movements is needed to achieve comprehensive peace in the region.
South Kordofan and Blue Nile States remain tense and unpredictable due to clashes between SAF and Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) forces. The Government closed the SPLM-N’s offices in September 2011. Abyei remains contested following fighting between SAF and SPLA forces. Both governments agreed to withdraw forces in Abyei. The United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) has been deployed to monitor the process, provide security and protect civilians. The SPLA and SAF have been slow to withdraw from the area, thereby delaying the return of almost all of the 110,000 civilians that fled to Agok and several locations in South Sudan. Political negotiations are continuing on the final status of Abyei.
The status of people of South Sudanese origin still residing in Sudan is one of the outstanding Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) issues. The Government of Sudan has delayed the implementation of its new citizenship law for nine months to allow people of South Sudanese origin, still resident in Sudan, to return to South Sudan or to regularize their status as foreigners in Sudan. The Government of Sudan has issued a new nationality law and one of the consequences of this is that people of South Sudanese origin will automatically lose their citizenship upon acquiring South Sudanese citizenship. The Government of South Sudan’s organized return programme has stopped. Other CPA issues to be resolved include border demarcation and security, the final status of Abyei and popular consultation processes for South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
The peacekeeping presence in Sudan has changed significantly in 2011. UNMIS, which provided significant logistical and security support to humanitarian actors, is liquidating following the end of the CPA. UNISFA, which has been deployed to demilitarize and monitor peace in Abyei, has faced deployment challenges. UNAMID’s mandate in Darfur has been renewed for 2012, with emphasis on the protection of civilians and facilitating safe and unhindered humanitarian access. UNAMID has also been proactive in supporting economic recovery by mobilizing resources for recovery projects and pursuing high-level advocacy for support in this area.
The Humanitarian Situation
The most critical humanitarian needs in Sudan are concentrated in Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Abyei and Khartoum (related particularly to the movement of people of South Sudanese origin from Sudan to South Sudan).
In Darfur in 2011, humanitarian actors were providing assistance to up to 4 million people (about half the population) depending on the season. Humanitarian partners provide around 50 per cent of all health and nutrition services. An estimated 1.9 million people currently reside in IDP camps, many of which are being increasingly integrated into urban areas. Due to improved security in the first nine months of 2011, there were 46,560 verified IDP returns and 13,307 verified returns of refugees from Chad. During the first part of 2011, OCHA reported 50,000 to 70,000 new displacements, mostly from rural areas of North Darfur to Zamzam IDP camp. This was due to fighting between SAF and armed movements. In this context, the protection of civilians remains a major concern for humanitarian partners and UNAMID.
In Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, lack of access due to insecurity and Government-imposed movement restrictions has prevented comprehensive assessments of the humanitarian situation. There are severe restrictions on the movements of UN international staff, and the Government is currently not permitting any INGO international staff to return to Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states. The Government has insisted that all international aid should be channelled through Sudanese line ministries and national NGOs. The Government is currently not permitting humanitarian staff or provisions to cross from Government-held areas into SPLM-N-held areas.
The Humanitarian Country Team estimates that some 200,000 people have been displaced from their homes or severely affected by fighting in South Kordofan since fighting began on 5 June and approximately 20,000 people have fled to South Sudan. In Blue Nile, around 130,000 people were initially displaced from the fighting that erupted on 1 September. HAC reports that 90 per cent of these people have not returned to their homes. Some 30,000 people have fled to neighbouring Ethiopia and approximately 8,000 have fled to South Sudan. In Abyei, most of the population of approximately 110,000 people was displaced to Agok and locations in South Sudan by fighting that broke out on 19 May. They have yet to return due to the continued SAF presence.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that some 175,000 people of South Sudanese origin moved to South Sudan during the first nine months of 2011. About 30,000 IDPs are currently stranded at Khartoum departure points or en route at the Kosti way station. A steady number of people arrive at these points each week. UNHCR estimates that approximately 700,000 people of South Sudanese origin, whose citizenship status is ambiguous, are still resident in Sudan. Whether they can remain in Sudan after the interim period, or will have to return to South Sudan, remains unclear. There have also been about 10,000 returns from South Sudan to Sudan.
The Humanitarian Strategy and Response
The HCT agreed on the following strategic objectives for the 2012 Humanitarian Workplan:
(1) Contribute to timely and effective humanitarian response throughout Sudan.
(2) Promote and facilitate durable solutions for IDPs, empowering local populations and reducing dependency on aid.
(3) Build and strengthen capacity of national actors to address humanitarian needs in Sudan.
Humanitarian actors are gradually shifting their approach from general distribution to durable solutions that address chronic vulnerabilities through increased livelihoods opportunities and access to basic services. Building national actors’ capacity is a vital aspect in both these approaches. This includes the Government, which has the primary responsibility for the long-term welfare of its population. OCHA coordinates with development actors, particularly the Resident Coordinator’s Support Office, to further these approaches.
Several partner organizations facilitate the humanitarian response in Sudan. Seventy-six international NGOs currently operate in Darfur, as well as 13 UN agencies, IOM, ICRC and UNAMID. Despite movement restrictions for international staff, a number of UN agencies and NGOs continue to have programmes in South Kordofan and Blue Nile . In some cases, activities continue through national staff, while elsewhere projects are on hold as a result of the current fighting. The people displaced by the fighting in Abyei in May are currently being assisted by humanitarian partners in Agok and various locations in South Sudan. INGOs and UN agencies are providing assistance to Sudan and South Sudan returnees, both at Khartoum departure points and en route.
The operating environment for humanitarian actors remains challenging. In particular, access restrictions continue to hamper the delivery of assistance. Kidnapping and carjacking incidents have continued in 2011, although less than the previous year. Other security incidents have occurred, including the harassment of humanitarian personnel. A recent attack on UNAMID killed three peacekeepers and wounded six. Some aid workers were expelled, and humanitarian activities have also been constrained by visa restrictions and other bureaucratic impediments. Areas under the control of armed movements have remained largely inaccessible. Some humanitarian actors are reducing or ceasing operations in response to the challenging operating environment and the difficulties in mobilizing funds for assistance.
In Darfur, current trends are likely to continue. There is improved security in many parts of the region, and an increasing number of IDPs choosing to return to their places of origin or integrating into urban centres. There is also likely to be an increase in the number of refugees returning to Darfur from Chad. Continued insecurity in rural areas under armed movement control, and possible further outbreaks of fighting, are likely to lead to new displacements. A continuation of access restrictions on humanitarian personnel and assets is likely in some areas.
In Abyei, the deployment of UNISFA should help to stabilize the situation and most of those who fled the Abyei area in May are likely to return when SAF troops pull out. While there may be a need for initial humanitarian assistance to returnees, there will be an increasing focus on recovery and development activities, as before the outbreak of fighting.
In South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the situation is likely to remain tense in the short term, with occasional outbreaks of fighting possible. This will increase the number of people affected by the conflict, including some new displacements. Given the high-level international engagement to encourage the parties to negotiate and avoid long-term conflict, it is possible that the security situation will eventually improve, enabling displaced people to return. Nevertheless, continued contingency planning is necessary as there is a possibility that fighting may intensify, resulting in further large-scale displacement and a potential major humanitarian emergency.
Concerning returns of Southerners to South Sudan, large numbers are likely to return ahead of March 2012 when the interim nine month period ends, though there is a possibility that the interim period will be extended. Returnees will continue to be assisted during this period by humanitarian actors with transportation, at departure points and at way stations.