Renk County in Upper Nile State, South Sudan is a major transit centre and border crossing for people and goods traveling to and from Sudan. Since independence in 2011, Renk town has become a major destination and transit point for returnees from Sudan and, since the beginning of the current conflict in 2013, for internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing conflict in other areas of Upper Nile State. Despite large-scale agriculture and opportunities for cash labour, malnutrition has remained high for years.1 Due to the limited presence of humanitarian actors and to the geographic, cultural and economic differences from Juba, humanitarian needs in Renk County have gone largely untracked.
REACH has operated in Renk County since January 2017, and currently conducts road monitoring to track the movement of IDPs and returnees through Renk town. In April 2018, Sudanese authorities closed the border crossing between Renk County and Sudan. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the area reported that returning refugees were stuck at the border for days or weeks at a time, and often turning to alternative methods to cross the border into South Sudan. There were also reports of increased market prices and rising hunger in Renk town.
To facilitate a better understanding of population movement and cross-border trade, and as part of a wider assessment of regional displacement from South Sudan,2 REACH conducted primary data collection in Renk town in May 2018. This consisted of three focus group discussions (FGDs) with South Sudanese returnees, IDPs, and eleven key informant (KI) interviews of humanitarian actors working in Renk County, market traders in Renk town and host community government officials. Market price data was gathered from six additional traders in Renk town. Additional data was utilized from 20 previously unpublished KI interviews on market functionality conducted with traders in Renk town in May 2017.
Secondary data from a SMART survey conducted by Medair in May 2018 was referenced as well.
The market and IDP settlement at the border with Sudan in Wunthow were not assessed, due to access issues. Although the assessment findings are not generalizable across all of Renk County, they provide an indicative understanding of the needs and current humanitarian situation in assessed areas.
• Displacement to Sudan in 2015 due to insecurity reduced the labour force and limited agricultural cultivation in Renk County.
• High inflation and currency devaluation in Sudan since November 2017 has limited purchasing power in Renk County, because nearly all products are imported from Sudan.
• Periodic border closures by the Sudanese government since April 2018 have led to food price shocks, as supplies dwindle and informal cross-border trade incurs heavy surcharges.
• Nutrition issues have persisted for years, leaving approximately one-quarter of the population malnourished.