The Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, signed by the warring parties in August 2015, currently represents the most viable opportunity to end the armed conflict that has ravaged South Sudan since December 2013. However, the volatility of the situation, the already reported violations of the ceasefire, the deterioration of the protection environment in South Sudan, and the vulnerability of its population, will continue to prompt South Sudanese to keep crossing the border to seek international protection as refugees.
Despite the open border policies, the prima facie recognition of South Sudanese refugees in all the countries of asylum, and the stabilization of the emergency in most of the countries, the needs of the South Sudanese refugees remain dire. In a country with some of the worse human development indicators even prior to the crisis, the coping mechanisms of its population have been severely affected and eroded the gains of the short-lasting peace that was achieved when South Sudan became independent in 2011.
Violations of the agreement continue, as active hostilities have been reported in Upper Nile, Jonglei, and Unity States. More worrisome, clashes have extended in States like Lakes and the Equatorias, which were previously spared from the violence.
Currently, as many as 7.5 million people – nearly two in every three people in South Sudan – are food insecure, including 3.9 million who are severely food insecure, while 4.6 million people are estimated to need humanitarian assistance.1 In this context, lack of security and extreme hunger in South Sudan have disrupted the livelihoods of people; these remain the main triggers that are likely to continue forcing people to seek asylum in the neighbouring countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda in 2016.
Since the 2015 Regional Refugee Response Plan (January-December 2015) was launched in December 2014, population displacements inside and outside South Sudan have continued. As of the end of October 2015, 1.6 million people are displaced inside South Sudan, while over 640,000 South Sudanese have sought refuge in neighbouring countries since December 2013. Based on recent trends, the number of South Sudanese refugees is expected to reach approximately 685,000 by the end of 2015, and new outflows of South Sudanese into neighbouring countries in 2016 are projected at around 130,000 individuals. Additionally, another 121,000 South Sudanese who were already refugees prior to the outbreak of the conflict in South Sudan in December 2013 find themselves trapped in countries of asylum, without the possibility of returning home. Thus, the total number of South Sudanese refugees could exceed 938,000 by the end of 2016. It is important to note that, even if voluntary repatriation is not considered as a viable option at this stage, the humanitarian community is looking closely at the further implementation of the Peace Agreement. If it holds, and conditions become conducive for return, partners will be prepared to counsel and assist the refugees who express their willingness to go back home.
The 2016 Regional Refugee Response Plan, elaborated through a consultative process coordinated by UNHCR with the involvement of some 44 UN agencies and NGO partners, and based on agreed planning figures, will provide a framework for interagency interventions for the assistance and protection of the South Sudanese refugees. Two years into the South Sudan crisis, as the emergency response is slowly becoming a protracted situation for the refugees who fled the country, humanitarian partners are actively exploring and building on existing partnerships with development actors, such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank. This will allow to increasingly promote the synergies and exchanges among different stakeholders, in order to step-up livelihood