Sudan: 2017 Humanitarian Needs Overview, Dec 2016

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 31 Dec 2016

Humanitarian needs & key figures

This document identifies the needs of people based on their vulnerabilities. Rather than assuming that all Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are in need because they are displaced, only vulnerable IDPs have been considered. The main humanitarian needs in Sudan result from several factors. New and protracted displacement due to conflict affects access to basic services and disrupts the livelihoods and food security of many people. Acute malnutrition in children under the age of 5 is above emergency thresholds in different areas across the country. Refugees and asylum seekers continue to arrive in Sudan seeking protection and humanitarian assistance. Returnees (both refugee and IDP returnees) are also vulnerable. Natural hazards in Sudan (in particular floods and droughts) impact food security and livelihoods of vulnerable people. The total number of people estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2017 is 4.8 million, a reduction of 1 million compared to 2016. This is attributed to food security being severely affected by El Niño and other factors in 2015, but in 2016 agricultural performance was better due to improved rainfall, reducing the number of people in need of food and livelihoods assistance to 3.6 million.

Humanitarian impact

Sudan faces two major overlapping humanitarian challenges: one triggered by conflict leading to wide-scale population displacement and another due to climatic and socio-cultural conditions leading to crisis levels of food insecurity and malnutrition. The scale and long-term nature of displacement, especially in Darfur, which has not been matched by economic opportunities, has exposed displaced people to hardship and uncertainty about their future. This is putting an additional strain on the 3.6 million people currently suffering from food insecurity, and the 2.2 million children suffering from acute malnutrition. Refugees and asylum seekers living in both emergency and protracted situations remain largely dependent on humanitarian assistance, with very limited access to livelihood opportunities.

Large scale and protracted internal displacement

In 2016, considerable new displacement occurred and a large number of those who have fled their homes since 2004 remain displaced.

In Darfur some 1.6 million displaced people are registered as living in camps. For unregistered IDPs i.e. displaced people living in rural settlements and urban areas, estimates vary considerably, especially as there is no systematic registration of displacement outside camps. The official government estimate is that an additional 0.5 million internally displaced persons live outside camps in Darfur and a further 0.2 million internally displaced people live in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. According to the government, the overall total number of IDPs across Sudan is 2.3 million in government-controlled conflict-affected areas.

The UN and partners estimate that a further half a million displaced people live in host communities and settlements in Darfur.

In many parts of Darfur, inter-communal conflict is another main cause of insecurity and recurrently causes substantial civilian displacement. Such localised armed violence takes place most frequently between sedentary-farming and nomadic-pastoral communities, as well as between nomadic communities, clashing over access to, use of and management of resources, especially land.

Armed movements in South Kordofan and Blue Nile estimate that an additional 545,000 people are displaced in areas under their control.

Nearly every community in conflict-affected areas, whether sedentary rural farmers, nomadic pastoralists, public sector workers or urban dwellers, has been impacted, further undermining their capacity to host displaced people.

Protracted displacement has disrupted traditional livelihood activities and eroded community resilience to withstand shocks. Displaced people are more vulnerable due to their reduced access to natural resources such as land and water, and a chronic shortage of basic services. Conflict impacts pastoralists’ traditional migration routes and farmers’ capacity to transport their crops. Newly displaced people lose their livelihood opportunities. As a result they seek safety, food, water, shelter, healthcare, education for their children and new livelihoods.

Children represent about 60 per cent of people displaced in camps.

Among displaced people, women and children are the most vulnerable and at the greatest risk of being exposed to violence during movements to markets, for water and wood collection and farming. Breakdown of the rule of law and economic hardship further compounds vulnerabilities.

Older people and people with disabilities, who may not have easy access to assistance, are also vulnerable and are exposed to risks of neglect, violence and exploitation. Limited basic services, such as social services and education, can further impact the aforementioned groups.

That is not to say that all displaced people suffer from the same levels of vulnerability, but common to all displaced people is a need for access to basic public services. Especially in camps and informal settlements, access to water, sanitation, health and education would, in the absence of humanitarian assistance, be scarce or not available at all. Access to documentation and proof of identity is another challenge for displaced people who have lost personal identification documents.

Large scale humanitarian assistance over the last decade has prevented excess mortality and morbidity among the displaced. Assistance, however, remains basic.

For example, in 18 of the 60 IDP camps in Darfur people have access to less than 7.5 litres of water per person per day, which is well below the minimum emergency standards.

The absence of socio-economic opportunities to rebuild their lives means that, even after years of displacement, two thirds of displaced people struggle to fully sustain their food needs by themselves. The long-term nature of displacement and people’s continued reliance on assistance to meet basic requirements calls for renewed, stronger, initiatives to create the conditions for durable solutions. In the meantime, people remain eager to be able to support themselves better. More early recovery activities are needed to strengthen their self-reliance and increase their resilience.

Although many displaced people commute seasonally to their areas of origin to check on property and in some cases tend their land, large scale durable returns have, for the most part, not taken place. The reality is that population growth and displacement have altered the human geography and exerted stress on available natural and economic resources. This means that when prospects for return remain elusive, some IDPs may actually choose to integrate locally if given the opportunity.

While some displaced people return to their homes, many have chosen to remain in camps or in settlements and urban areas, seeking opportunities for a safer future. Safety and security, land ownership and access to basic social services are most frequently cited by displaced people as the primary conditions required for their return.

At least 533,000 people have returned to their place of origin since the onset of the crisis, including 209,000 from the beginning of 2014 to the end of 2016. Returnees often need some support to settle in their former place of origin, be it in the form of temporary humanitarian assistance until their traditional livelihoods are restored, or in terms of available public services. The delivery of aid to returnees will require careful coordination between all the stakeholders providing short-term aid and those building and developing the capacities of communities over the long-term.

The government and development actors are working to ensure that IDPs have the ability to make informed decisions about their voluntary return to areas of origin, and that the necessary conditions and support are in place to help them do so in a safe and dignified manner.

Asylum seekers and refugees

Sudan has a longstanding tradition of hospitality towards refugees and asylum seekers, and is currently hosting refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

As of December 2016, over 793,700 asylum seekers and refugees are being hosted across Sudan. Voluntary return is not an option for the vast majority of these people due to the situation in their countries of origin, and resettlement remains limited to only specific cases. A large number of refugees and asylum seekers are as yet unregistered, including Syrian and Yemeni people who are not obligated to register as refugees upon arrival in country. With this unregistered population in mind, the Commission for Refugees (COR) estimates that there are approximately 1.3 million refugees and asylum seekers living in Sudan. Of these, a large population are estimated to be residing in urban areas, often with limited access to assistance and services.

Fresh violence in 2016, compounded by critical food insecurity in the border states of South Sudan, has further fueled an ongoing influx of South Sudanese refugees into Sudan. There are over 297,000 South Sudanese refugees who have sought safety and protection in Sudan since December 2013 due to the progressive deterioration of the security situation in South Sudan.

Until there is a political solution in South Sudan, this number is likely to continue to grow. Among the South Sudanese refugees arriving in Sudan, 84 per cent are women and children. Having usually travelled long distances to seek safety and protection, these people need food, water, shelter and health assistance as well as livelihood opportunities.

Additionally, approximately 350,000 individuals from South Sudan are estimated to have been living in Sudan prior to secession.

The influx of South Sudanese refugees places additional pressure on the resources of the host communities, as well as on the capacity of the government and humanitarian partners to respond. Nevertheless, the Government of Sudan has maintained its open-border policy and in August 2016 recognized their status as refugees, enabling them to enjoy the rights prescribed in the 1951 Refugee Convention.

The emergency response to South Sudanese refugees has concentrated on expanding reception capacity and improving site-based and community-based refugee assistance, including enhancing host community capacity to manage sudden increases in the refugee population.

Refugees living in protracted situations in Darfur and eastern Sudan remain largely dependent on humanitarian aid, with a very small percentage having access to livelihood opportunities. Approximately 8,500 refugees from Chad live in two sites in Central Darfur. Spontaneous returns continue to be supported; however, the residual Chadian refugee population remains dependent on humanitarian assistance while they await the finalization of a formal repatriation agreement. More than 1,450 refugees from CAR are also living in the Darfur region, mostly in urban settlements around Nyala. Access to education, medical referrals and livelihood opportunities are among the key needs to be addressed.

In eastern Sudan, the humanitarian response for over 135,000 refugees and asylum seekers, including new arrivals and protracted refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia in Al Gezira, Gedaref, Kassala, Red Sea and Sennar states, has stretched local resources. Both populations are living in one of the poorest regions of Sudan and face similar challenges, including high levels of poverty, limited access to livelihood opportunities, and restrictions on freedom of movement.

Sudan is situated within the Horn of Africa’s large, complex and constantly evolving migration routes, and serves as both a temporary and long-term host to a diverse population of refugees, asylum-seekers and other persons of concern.

Socioeconomic challenges, such as the lack of education, health, water services and livelihood opportunities, as well as protection concerns are often cited by refugees to be the primary factors in their choice to move onwards to North Africa and Europe. Increasing numbers of refugees in eastern Sudan are turning to smuggling networks in order to facilitate their movement onward. Along these migratory routes, refugees and asylum-seekers can be exposed to various forms of exploitation that can result in human rights violations, including human trafficking.

Movement drivers also fall within a broader development context within Sudan. There is a need for more durable solutions that support the development of opportunities for refugees to gain greater self-reliance and enhanced protection.

Greater engagement of development actors within the refugee response in Sudan will also benefit host communities, especially as it relates to improved access to basic services and livelihood opportunities for both refugees and host community members.

Food insecurity

While conflict has been the main driver of humanitarian needs in Sudan, poverty, floods, drought and environmental degradation have also significantly affected the livelihoods of vulnerable people, particularly children. Conflict and insecurity has meant that arable lands in some food-producing areas cannot be accessed and that, even when crops can be grown, an inadequate transportation infrastructure prevents efficient access to markets. The high prices of agriculture inputs and products have reduced purchasing power at the household level. This has reinforced and exacerbated chronic vulnerabilities such as poverty and unemployment among significant segments of the population.

This is particularly relevant in rural areas.

The government’s Food Security Technical Secretariat (FSTS) estimates the level of food insecurity for 3.6 million people has reached crisis or emergency levels.

High levels of malnutrition

Socio-cultural and poor feeding practices have a major impact on the nutrition levels of pregnant women and their children.

Both acute and chronic forms of undernutrition affect the growth, development and survival of the children of Sudan.

Undernutrition results in short and long-term consequences: while increased risk of mortality and morbidity are the short-term consequences of child malnutrition, about 45 per cent of all deaths in children under five are directly related with malnutrition, mostly due to the increased impact of disease.

In Sudan, over one in three children under five are too short for their age (stunted) and more than one in six are too thin for their height (wasted).

Part I: humanitarian impact

According to the Ministry of Health, some 2.2 million children suffer from wasting annually (Global Acute Malnutrition, GAM) out of which over 573,000 suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). 11 out of the 18 states have a malnutrition prevalence of above 15 per cent, which is above the emergency threshold as per the WHO standards. Some states have much higher rates, such as North Darfur where GAM prevalence is at 27.9 per cent (Source: MICS 2014).

Malnutrition is also chronic in many parts of Sudan, with high levels of malnutrition remaining unchanged for decades.

This is particularly significant in the east of Sudan, where this chronic development problem often results in acute humanitarian needs. The main contributing factors to these high levels of malnutrition are food insecurity, disease, lack of access to primary healthcare, a lack of clean drinking water, inadequate sanitation facilities and poor infant feeding practices.

Both chronic and acute malnutrition are a key concern and priority for the government, which has joined the international Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) initiative. The Sudan Nutrition Case for Investment on Nutrition was launched in 2016 by the government. This multi-sector initiative aims to tackle malnutrition by addressing the underlying factors. The government, supported by development and humanitarian actors, has scaled up response in line with the National Nutrition Strategic Plan. As a result, the number of children who have access to treatment of SAM has doubled over the last five years, but current nutrition programmes need to be significantly scaled up to achieve a meaningful impact and visibly reduce malnutrition rates in the coming years.

Natural Disasters

Sudan is at high risk from certain natural hazards in particular floods and drought. Floods and flash floods are grave natural hazards in terms of extent and frequency; the Nile River and its tributaries pose a particular risk. On average, floods affect some 200,000 people every year. In 2016, over 200,000 people were affected and over 22,000 houses destroyed. Damage to crops and arable land poses a serious risk of long-term food insecurity in many parts of the country and heightens the vulnerability of people who were already food insecure.

In 2015 and 2016, Sudan experienced unpredictable rainfall patterns due to El Niño and La Niña which has negatively affected harvests, water availability and food supplies, altered transhumance routes, and led to environmental migration.

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