The South Sudanese refugee emergency remains the largest refugee crisis in Africa, and Sudan hosts one of the largest populations in the region. At the end of June 2020, Sudan was hosting 820,687 South Sudanese refugees.
There were 1,089 new arrivals in the first half of 2020, a 40 per cent decrease compared to the same timeframe in the past year. Refugees are often living alongside host communities in remote and under-served areas with limited infrastructure and basic services.
After the change in government in in 2019 and the start of a democratic transition, Sudan remains politically volatile. Although peace negotiations are on-going in Juba, the security situation, especially at the Eastern and Southern border areas, as well as in Darfur, remains precarious with armed clashes and tribal conflict inside the country and instability in neighbouring countries. Furthermore, Sudan’s economic downturn has continued in 2020 with inflation reaching over 100 per cent in June 2020 coupled with severe fuel, bread and electricity shortages resulting in demonstrations and increasing pressure on the Transitional Government.
Refugees, like other population groups, have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic since March facing an already weak national health system with shortages of qualified staff, equipment and medications. By the end of June, the Sudanese Ministry of Health recorded 9,258 identified COVID-19 cases. However, official figures of confirmed cases likely underestimate the extent of the pandemic due to low testing capacity. The onset of the COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating the existing economic crisis as well as under-resourced health services.
Other refugee services, such as registration, were halted until preventive measures were introduced. Additionally, prolonged lockdown measures to slow the spread of the virus further reduced income opportunities. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report for Sudan foresees increased food insecurity for the second half of 2020.
Despite the closure of all land borders after the onset of COVID-19, small numbers of refugees have continued to arrive and were quarantined in dedicated centers for 14 days, following Government policy.
Notwithstanding the additional COVID-19 related funding to mitigate the spread of the pandemic, as of 30 June the South Sudan Regional Response Plan was largely underfunded. While WASH and health activities have increased, a lot of gaps remain in the response to cover the most basic needs, including livelihood and energy initiatives, strengthened registration, as well as the provision of health services and nutrition.