As of 31 October 2017, there are close to 2.5 million South Sudanese refugees hosted in six asylum countries: the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. This figure includes two million refugees who have fled since the outbreak of conflict in December 2013, over 116,000 South Sudanese refugees who had sought asylum in the region prior to December 2013, as well as over 352,000 South Sudanese who were living in Sudan prior to December 2013 and who have recently been included in the official South Sudanese refugee population by UNHCR and the Commission of Refugees (COR) in Sudan, as returning to South Sudan is not considered a viable option for this population.
As the South Sudanese refugee crisis enters its fifth year in 2018, it remains the fastest growing and largest refugee situation on the African continent. The rate of the refugee movement has accelerated as the conflict has drawn on; over two thirds of the post-December 2013 refugee population have sought asylum in 2016 and 2017. This has created a challenging situation for asylum countries and humanitarian partners who are addressing the needs of refugees who fled before and after the outbreak of conflict in 2013, as well as responding to a constant and steady flow of new arrivals fleeing an evolving and volatile situation, with basic services overstretched in many countries of asylum.
Inside South Sudan, the humanitarian situation and complex protection crisis continued to deteriorate. As of 30 September, some 1.87 million South Sudanese are internally displaced, with over 200,000 residing in Protection of Civilian sites, and a total of 7.6 million people urgently need humanitarian assistance as a result of armed conflict, widespread inter-communal violence, food insecurity and disease outbreaks. Over 2,600 cases of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) were reported to humanitarian partners in 2016, and civilians continued to be targeted and children forcibly recruited. From January to March 2017 alone, 252 incidents of grave violations affecting an estimated 4,385 South Sudanese children were documented through the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM). The conflict has escalated severely, affecting the greater Equatoria and Upper Nile regions as well as Western Bahr el Ghazal resulting in a surge in forced displacement, serious and systematic reported human rights violations and abuses, including the extrajudicial killing of civilians, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and other inhumane and degrading treatment, conflictrelated sexual violence and looting and destruction of civilian property. Almost all villages in Central Equatoria accessed by UNMISS or humanitarian partners during the first quarter of 2017 had been burned to the ground by belligerents to the conflict. Moreover, satellite imagery obtained and analyzed by UNITAR Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT) during the first quarter of 2017 found large-scale destruction in multiple areas of Central Equatoria, particularly in and around Yei (Source: Protection Cluster South Sudan).
Negative macroeconomic factors compound the complexity of the protection crisis. The United Nations officially declared a state of famine in two counties of Unity State in February 2017, and while the areas are no longer classified as such, food insecurity has deteriorated to unprecedented levels across the country. South Sudan entered the harvest season in September 2017 with 6 million people (56%) of the total population estimated to be severely food insecure according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) findings covering September 2017 to March 2018. This is the highest proportion of food insecure populations recorded since the start of IPC in South Sudan. In addition to the needs of South Sudanese citizens, the country is also hosting close to 280,000 refugees, the majority from Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.