One Million People Forced to Flee Fighting in South Sudan

One Million People Displaced and in Need of Help Following Fighting in South Sudan

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More than 1.5 million people have been forced from their homes by violence since the conflict in South Sudan began on December 15, 2013. Thousands more have lost their lives or have been wounded. Before the crisis began, South Sudan was one of the poorest countries in the world and was desperately in need of humanitarian assistance. Now, half of its population needs help now, and the number is expected to rise. 

These families are in desperate need of help, having been forced to flee and take refuge in makeshift settlements with little access to water, toilets or medical services. 393,00 South Sudanese have fled into neighboring countries, such as Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan. The vast majority of refugees are women and children. Immediate needs are for food, shelter, water and sanitation infrastructure, medical services, cooking and household supplies - but the United Nations reports that less than half of the people displaced in South Sudan have received any kind of humanitarian assistance. 

“These people are at risk for starvation," United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres told reporters after touring the displaced person camp sites in March of 2013.

With tensions running high and continued sporadic clashes, many of the displaced are adopting a wait-and-see attitude toward returning to their homes and villages. Some of the displaced, both inside and outside the country, have told journalists and assessment teams that they have no intention of going back.

To make things worse, an estimated 475,000 people have fled to flood-prone areas where they risk being cut-off from assistance as the rainy season approaches. Floods increase the risk of diseases like cholera which can spread when latrines overflow and conditions become unsanitary. The number of cholera cases reported in South Sudan is steadily increasing, and displaced persons are especially vulnerable. 

CARE is helping

CARE is assessing the humanitarian and security situation and is responding, helping families in desperate need. We support health facilities and mobile health units and the majority have remained open despite the fighting, providing livesaving medical services in some of the worst-affected areas of the country. We are working to restock medical supplies and provide other support to these facilities.

CARE is scaling up water, sanitation and nutrition programs to help people affected by the violence, including on the border with Uganda, where thousands are seeking shelter. 

In Uganda, CARE is mounting a response in the Western Nile region to help the South Sudanese refugees who have fled there. Refugees are in desperate need of access to clean water and sanitation facilities, hygiene kits, shelter, food, cooking pots and household supplies.

Women and young girls are particularly vulnerable

Among the displaced and refugees, women and girls are particularly at risk. Many women have had to flee with their children as their husbands stayed behind, rendering them vulnerable outside the protection of their families and homes. Staff in CARE-supported health facilities have reported a drop in the number of women accessing reproductive health services. Pregnant women need essential medical care and the recent situation – lack of access to basic reproductive health services and the closure or destruction of health care facilities due to violence – has put their and their babies’ lives at risk. 

A country already at risk

South Sudan lacks basic services such as safe water, sanitation facilities and health services and electricity. The transportation sector is very underdeveloped, with hardly any paved roads. One out of every seven children dies before reaching the age of 5; one out of six women who becomes pregnant dies, more than 20 percent of the population is undernourished and deadly epidemic outbreaks are frequent and spread easily. In addition, food insecurity is a threat to more than 1 million people each year. The crisis has made it all the worse, and there are reports of deaths - mostly among children - due to malnourishment, dehydration and disease. 

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A young mother with her baby who has fled violence and is taking refuge in Nimule, near the Ugandan border. CARE has recently carried out an assessment there to gauge humanitarian needs. Photo: © 2014 CARE