This week, Ireland is dispatching over 100 tonnes of humanitarian supplies to Uganda to help refugees from South Sudan, who have been forced to flee their homes by continuing conflict, violence and acute hunger. Two airlifts will fly supplies, including tarpaulins for shelter, blankets, cooking sets, and mosquito nets, to Entebbe in Uganda for distribution to refugee camps hosting South Sudanese refugees. South Sudan has been wracked by conflict since December 2013, and is now one of the most severe humanitarian crises in the world with nearly 2 out of 3 people of its total population of 12 million in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. In the last four years, 2 million people have been internally displaced in the country, and 1.9 million people have fled as refugees to neighbouring countries. People continue to flee the country in vast numbers, and it is young people who have been most impacted by the crisis, with two-thirds of South Sudanese refugees under the age of 18.
In response to this human suffering Ireland has played its part. We have been actively supporting those affected by this crisis, both in South Sudan and in neighbouring countries where many have sought refuge from fighting. Since 2012, Ireland has supplied €46 million in assistance and last year, Ireland’s support amounted to €11 million. So far this year, Ireland has already provided €8 million. Through our Rapid Response Initiative, Ireland is able to react with great speed to evolving humanitarian crises, by prepositioning stocks of humanitarian supplies in various United Nations Humanitarian Response Depots, managed by the World Food Programme. In 2016, this allowed Irish Aid to airlift 357 tonnes of emergency relief supplies to families and communities in Ethiopia, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Iraq, Niger and Nigeria, and to families affected by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. This year, 102 tonnes were airlifted into Somalia in April and 34 tonnes were airlifted into South Sudan last month, for distribution to people affected by drought, hunger and conflict.
Announcing the latest airlifts to South Sudan, Minister Flanagan reflected on the tragic impact of the conflict on South Sudanese civilians,
_“I am deeply concerned by the high levels of population displacement both internally and to neighbouring countries, with one in four people now driven from their homes. It is an immense tragedy that 1.9 million people have been forced to flee South Sudan as refugees since the end of 2013.” _
Minister Flanagan further noted that the root causes of the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan must be addressed to ensure that the current crisis is resolved and that future generations enjoy a stable and prosperous future. In this vein, Minister Flanagan called on the Government of South Sudan and the international community to redouble their efforts to stop the violence,
_“The Government of South Sudan, countries in the region and the international community must step up efforts to end the cycle of protracted conflict and violence that is driving displacement in and from South Sudan. Ireland, together with our EU and UN partners, will continue to work for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.” _
In the joint announcement of the airlifts, Minister of State McHugh took the opportunity to highlight the positive role being played by neighbouring countries, especially Uganda’s liberal refugee policy, in the face of such immense human needs and in the context of limited resources,
“Uganda is now hosting the largest refugee population in Africa, hosting 930,000 South Sudanese refugees, as well as around 300,000 refugees of other nationalities. I saw first-hand the mammoth scale of needs among refugees when I visited Adjumani in northern Uganda last year. Many arrived with only what they could carry. The international community must work harder to meet the immediate and longer term needs of refugees in Uganda and elsewhere.
“Our assistance to this crisis needs to be commensurate with the solidarity shown by the Ugandan and other host Governments in the region whose resources are increasingly overstretched and depleted. Ireland commends the Government of Uganda’s open-door and progressive refugee policy.”
On 22-23 June, Ireland will participate in the Uganda Solidarity Summit on Refugees, co-hosted by the UN and the Ugandan Government. This will present the international community with the opportunity to pledge more support to Uganda in its efforts to accommodate the huge influx of vulnerable people and ensure their dignity is respected and their human needs are met. Minister of State McHugh vowed,
_“Ireland will continue to do what it can to support the Government of Uganda in our diplomatic relations and through our aid programme.” _