REGIONAL STRATEGIC OVERVIEW
Conflict in South Sudan has further intensified since July 2016 and continues to be characterized by international human rights and humanitarian law violations, including: reports of extrajudicial killings of civilians; enforced disappearances; rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV); recruitment and use of children in armed conflict; looting and destruction of civilian and humanitarian assets; and curtailment of freedom of movement. Reported incidents appear to have an ethnic dimension and may indicate wider-scale atrocities, including ethnic cleansing. In a statement delivered following his last visit to South Sudan in November 2016, the UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide cautioned that. “As the conflict is becoming ever more complex, the effects of the December 2013 outbreak of violence linger, and human rights violations committed at that time have not been accounted for. On the contrary, there is renewed violence on a daily basis, and any hope of reconciliation is elusive”.
Alarmingly, 4.8 million people in South Sudan – more than one-third of the total population – are food insecure. The prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) has reached above the 15 per cent emergency threshold in 7 of 10 states, and is approximately double the emergency threshold in Unity and Northern Bahr el-Ghazal. The country has also suffered a cholera outbreak for the third consecutive year.
The Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, signed by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and SPLA in Opposition in August 2015, remains fragile. A Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) was formed in April 2016. However, effective implementation of the agreement has been repeatedly derailed by political fragmentation, defection of various actors, and increasing polarization. Lack of progress on the political agreement has in turn undermined the mandate of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to effectively protect civilians.
Economically, the South Sudanese Pound (SSP) currency depreciated rapidly in 2016, reaching an all- time low of more than 100 SSP to 1 USD in November 2016. The cost of living has risen exponentially, with the South Sudan annual consumer price index increasing by 835.7 per cent from October 2015 to October 2016, the highest year-on-year inflation rate in the world. Insecurity along main roads has crippled trade and the ability of traders to access hard currency for imports.
The combined factors of increased insecurity compounded by faltering mediation by the UN, IGAD Plus and the AU, which have yet to restore a tenable peace, have resulted in 1.7 million internally displaced people (IDPs), 75 per cent of whom reside in the three hardest-hit conflict areas of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei States. With the advent of the dry season, it is expected that fighting will continue in various parts of Greater Upper Nile and Greater Equatoria, precipitating further displacement, both internally and across borders, into 2017. As the conflict enters its fourth year in 2017, food insecurity is expected to remain extremely high, compounded by an economic decline exacerbating humanitarian needs. An unprecedented 1.2 million South Sudanese are refugees in the region, making forced displacement from South Sudan the largest scale refugee movement in Africa.
South Sudanese refugees have been granted asylum in the region by the Governments of the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. The generous asylum policy of those countries is noteworthy given that they, such as CAR, the DRC and Sudan, are ranked among the 10 most fragile states according to the 2016 Fragile State Index of the Fund for Peace. Upholding their exemplary solidarity is an overarching strategic and cross- cutting priority of the refugee responses in 2017. As such, the 2017 Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP) for South Sudan seeks to support host States to continue to maintain their asylum obligations and meet minimum standards for assistance and protection of South Sudanese refugees, whose exodus shows no sign of abating. In November 2016, Uganda continued to witness a daily arrival rate averaging 2,000-3,000 refugees coming through various entry points along its border with South Sudan. Ethiopia registered over 30,000 new arrivals in September alone, while the total number of South Sudanese in the DRC has reached 60,000. In Ethiopia, the DRC and Uganda, the South Sudanese refugee population as of October have already surpassed projected planning figures for 2016.
Humanitarian needs of South Sudanese refugees has continued to rise over the past three years. The original RRRP for South Sudan was launched in the immediate aftermath of the outbreak of the conflict in December 2013, and was revised in 2014, 2015 and in July 2016. During this period, the level of refugee displacement surged from 115,000 in December 2013 to 400,000 in 2014, 973,000 in July 2016, and to 1.28 million as of October 2016. By the end of 2017, the projected planning figure is more than 1.8 million South Sudanese refugees. Despite the compelling needs, the funding levels for respective versions of the RRRP have remained around 25 per cent. A paradigm shift in resource mobilization is urgently called for among the international community, including partners, donors, regional organizations and other stakeholders, to increase assistance to a level commensurate with the solidarity shown by the host Governments whose resources are increasingly overstretched and depleted. Addressing the spiralling needs of South Sudanese refugees in a comprehensive and timely manner has become a regional imperative, especially considering that the majority are women, children and youth who have been rendered extremely vulnerable by protracted exposure to violence, food insecurity, and multiple displacements, as well as protection risks including SGBV and forced recruitment.
With the limited availability of infrastructure, the influx is straining reception capacities in under-served hosting areas, triggering tensions and critical shortfalls across all sectors, in particular food, water, shelter, health, education and access to arable land, which can enhance the capacity for self-reliance. Furthermore, an inability to shore up the requisite level of timely support would not only result in an highly complex humanitarian crisis, but poses a tangible threat to stability in the Eastern Africa and the Great Lakes subregions which, if left unaddressed, could result in onward movements of refugees in search of assistance and durable solutions. The risks posed by the South Sudanese forced displacement situation is further underscored by the “2016 Regional Outlook for The Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region”, a document elaborated on a UN inter-agency basis and endorsed by IGAD and other stakeholders.
Against this backdrop, the following four strategic objectives underpin the 2017 South Sudan RRRP:
- Uphold the quality of asylum for South Sudanese refugees in the region by meeting their lifesaving needs according to applicable minimum standards, in particular through:
- Mitigation of heightened protection risks faced by women, children and youth, who constitute an overwhelming majority of the South Sudanese refugee population, and provision of adequate services to victims of violence and other protection risks;
- Full integration of community-based protection mechanisms into refugee assistance programmes to strengthen food and nutritional security and existing coping mechanisms of refugees;
- Increasing refugee access to quality and inclusive education and basic health services by maximizing synergies with national systems which address the needs of vulnerable host communities;
- Broadening economic opportunities available to refugees by supporting policies that offer alternatives to camps and access to self-reliance activities benefiting both refugee and host communities;
- Implementing environmentally sound refugee site planning that ensures sustainable access to water and sanitation;
- Supporting peace education and other initiatives aimed at encouraging co-existence among refugee communities of different ethnicities, as well as between refugees and their hosts;
Anchor the response within national and regional multi-year protection frameworks, policies, laws, and standards which address legal and physical protection needs of South Sudanese refugees.
Enhance biometric registration, documentation and data management in collaboration with host Governments to support implementation of durable solutions strategies. Aggregate socio-economic data on livelihoods and skills profiles to improve evidence-based joint programming with line ministries, humanitarian partners, the World Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and other multilateral development agencies.
Proactively explore and, where applicable, pursue innovative approaches stemming from participatory assessments with refugees, Governments, humanitarian and development actors, private sector, and civil society, with a view to introduce cash-based interventions (CBIs) and other initiatives to alleviate the dependency of refugees on aid.