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Hope for South Sudanese refugees arriving in Darfur

27 Jun 2017


June 2017: Amy Martin, Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Darfur, speaks with Angelina and her family. They had to walk for four days to reach the Sudanese border. Despite the hardship she experienced, Angelina is relieved to have finally found safety in Al Nimir refugee camp. Credit: OCHA

Angelina, 40, is one of thousands of people who have fled to Sudan to escape conflict, food insecurity and looming famine in South Sudan. Angelina, her sister, her children and her brother’s children walked for four days from their home in Raja until they reached the border. They now live in Al Nimir camp, in Sudan’s East Darfur State, which hosts more than 5,300 refugees, most of whom are women, children and elderly people.

Since the beginning of the year, almost 152,000 South Sudanese refugees have arrived in Sudan, bringing the total number of arrivals to some 400,000 since conflict began in South Sudan in 2013. In East Darfur State, one of the main areas where refugees are arriving, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and partners are providing assistance, such as setting up shelters in Al Nimir camp—Angelina’s new home. Many people are extremely weak when they arrive, due to the arduous journey. Fewer refugees are anticipated to arrive now that the rainy season (June to September) has started, as heavy rain makes many routes difficult to pass. However, as long as conflict and food insecurity continue in South Sudan, the flow of refugees is expected to continue.

Angelina has no idea of her husband and brother’s whereabouts. Many other women also lost touch with family members during the long trek to the border. About 100 children who arrived unaccompanied are being cared for by other families in the camp, while family-reunification services seek to reconnect family members.

Angelina is eager to move out of the camp’s reception centre. Her family are awaiting allocation of a plot of land and shelter materials to set up some semblance of a new home in Al Nimir. Angelina wants to make sure her children can attend school; they will initially be enrolled in temporary classrooms, after which proper classrooms will be set up to provide education for all children in the camp. Like many residents from Raja, Angelina is a trader. Establishing her livelihood is important so that she can care for her family.

“We need to work so that we can provide for ourselves,” she said. “Transport to Ed Daein town is costly, but we do it so we can find daily work. I manage to find some work there so I can earn a little money to support my children.”

Ensuring access to basic services

Shelters continue to be set up in Al Nimir Camp, East Darfur, which hosts 5,300 refugees from South Sudan – a fraction of the 400,000 South Sudanese who have fled to Sudan since the outbreak of the conflict in 2013. Credit: OCHA

UNHCR and aid organizations are expanding Al Nimir camp in collaboration with the host community and landowners who have released their land to host the refugees. Refugee and host communities will have access to new health and water services, which are run by UNHCR and partners, including the international NGO American Refugee Committee. Fuel is a concern for refugees, as firewood for cooking is already scarce in the area. Humanitarian organizations are seeking solutions for this shortage, and partners are working to ensure that refugees have access to health, education, water and other basic services.

The response to support refugees here and in other parts of Sudan has been made possible in part by the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund and the Sudan Humanitarian Fund, both of which allocated funding in 2016 and 2017. But with more people arriving at Al Nimir camp, there is an urgent need for continued funding. So far, just 10 per cent of the required US$221 million for the South Sudanese refugee response in Sudan has been secured.