Go to main content

South Sudan Refugee Crisis: “We left without our parents”

Supporting the Displaced Populations/Refugees
Ethiopia South Sudan

The refugee crisis in South Sudan is one of the most alarming humanitarian situations in the world. Millions of South Sudanese are fleeing from brutal violence and extensive food insecurity. 86% of those who seek safety in neighbouring countries are women and children, including at least 75,000 children who have become separated from their families, many of whom are in poor health.

Agnès Natima, 18 months, arrived at the camp 2 months ago. She suffers from severe malnutrition. | © P.Meinhardt / Handicap International

Injured, hungry and relieved

When Simon, 17, and his four young sisters arrived at a refugee camp near the Kenyan border, he told us that all he could feel was relief. The responsibility of keeping his sisters safe had clearly been weighing heavily on him during their journey from South Sudan. A journey that Simon was forced to make on improvised wooden crutches, with an untreated gunshot wound in his left thigh.  

Simon was shot in December 2016. His family had no food left so he was searching for honey and wild fruits to feed his sisters when he ventured into an area too close to the fighting. The health centre near his village was abandoned so his injury has been left untreated and his leg is now severely affected. He walks slowly and is often in pain.

Simon at the Kakuma refugee camp

A difficult decision

Simon tells us that his parents felt they had no other option but to send the children to Kenya after struggling for years to keep the family together. They used to grow sorghum and vegetables for sale, which provided enough food for everyone and Simon was able to go school. But successive droughts meant they lost almost all of their crops and the war caused food prices to rise. They lived in constant fear of the fighting and became increasingly worried about Simon’s leg.

Safety and Hope

Having lived through such a long period of violence and uncertainty, Simon seems more mature and composed than most teenagers. He explains what happened to him in confident English and tells us that he has missed studying. He left his home with the hope that in Kenya he would be able to get proper treatment for his leg and an education for his sisters. Handicap International and partners will support him every step of the way, starting with new crutches and physical rehabilitation.  

The scale of the crisis

Simon’s story is part of a much larger disaster. 6 million people in South Sudan, approximately half of the population, are currently facing extreme food shortages. Thanks to concerted humanitarian intervention, the most severely affected areas are managing to stave off famine, but the UN food agency has warned that the crisis is actually worsening, with more people in need of food assistance than ever before.

1.9 million South Sudanese are internally displaced and a further 1.9 million are registered refugees in neighbouring countries. Uganda alone currently hosts 977,746 South Sudanese refugees and, with thousands more arriving each day, will reach 1 million in the coming weeks. These are unprecedented circumstances, even for a country with a long history of welcoming refugees. 

Kakuma refugee camp

Handicap International

Handicap International is present in South Sudan. We work primarily in camps to ensure that people with specific needs; including people with disabilities, the elderly and other vulnerable groups, can access the services they need and are protected from abuse and discrimination.

We are also improving care for South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia, and Kenya. For example, we recently launched a health programme in Ethiopia’s border camps that aims to provide a more certain future for refugee children with malnutrition.

Handicap International is alarmed by the number of South Sudanese refugees arriving in Uganda and is especially concerned for people who may need specific support. We do not have an existing presence in the country, but due to the severity of this crisis, we are launching a new national programme. 

Where your
support
helps

PRESS CONTACT

CANADA

Gabriel PERRIAU

USA

Mica BEVINGTON

 

Help them
concretely

To go further

East Ethiopia: the forgotten crisis
© HI

East Ethiopia: the forgotten crisis

The grazing regions of Oromia and Somali in southern and eastern Ethiopia have witnessed an escalation in inter-ethnic violence in recent months. Since last September, more than one million people have fled their villages and been displaced to hundreds of reception areas. HI is working to protect the most vulnerable individuals, primarily women and children. Fabrice Vandeputte, HI’s head of mission in Ethiopia, explains the causes of the crisis and how the organisation is responding to it.

More than 10,000 refugees in Burundi: HI assisting the most vulnerable
©HI

More than 10,000 refugees in Burundi: HI assisting the most vulnerable

Following ongoing clashes in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, more than 10,000 people, mostly Congolese, have taken refuge in the south and southwest of Burundi since 24 January. HI is preparing to launch an emergency response in aid of these refugees.

Violence and trauma: the mental health needs of South Sudanese refugees
Philippa Russell / HI

Violence and trauma: the mental health needs of South Sudanese refugees

More than 1 million people have fled from South Sudan to neighbouring Uganda since the outbreak of civil war in 2013. Many have witnessed or experienced violence, including forced displacement, rape and indiscriminate killing. Handicap International (HI) is providing psychosocial support to respond to the complex and urgent mental health needs of refugees.