Situation Overview: Regional Displacement of South Sudanese (March 2018)
The crisis in South Sudan is not confined to areas within its borders. Since renewed fighting broke out across the country in July 2016, large numbers of refugees have poured into neighbouring countries, enlarging an already significant displacement crisis. By early-2017, nearly 60,000 people were fleeing the country each month, resulting in mass depopulation of both urban and rural areas.1 Though the outflux has since reduced, an estimated 2.4 million people are currently displaced out of the country; the vast majority of whom are women and children.Displacement is not unfamiliar to most South Sudanese. Nearly continuous war, inhospitable landscapes, and semi-nomadic pastoralist livelihoods have contributed to generations of people who have had to move from their established homes multiple times in their life, if not every year. For some, this type of migration has been a successful coping strategy for living in a harsh landscape. For others, this movement is a desperate search for safety and the fulfillment of basic needs.
National boundaries have often played a minimal role in influencing these historical movements; instead tribal affinity, trade routes and ecological continuity have had greater influence on the movement of people.
Unfortunately, the seamless provision of humanitarian assistance is often disrupted by international boundaries.
In the vulnerable and volatile regions of the surrounding countries that have hosted this outflux, humanitarian responses have faced a data gap on the challenges and opportunities affecting South Sudanese. Responses have grappled with poor preparedness and underfunding, which has been exacerbated by the porousness of the borders and the protracted and recurrent nature of the crisis.4 Because of this, there is a pronounced lack of awareness about the potential for movement of refugees out of South Sudan, and equally limited understanding of the movement, or potential for movement, back into South Sudan.
In response, REACH increased its attention to cross-border movements in and out of South Sudan. This was to provide an initial understanding of regional migration and displacement of South Sudanese into other countries, and their intentions to return, relocate or settle in the place of refuge. This should support humanitarian actors in all locations to make more informed decisions about the scale, scope, and location of response.
To do this, qualitative data collection was performed, port and road monitoring stations were expanded and cross-border movement indicators were added to existing data collection tools.
Qualitative assessments were conducted from September 2017 to March 2018, utilizing Focus Group Discussions (FGDs), Key Informant (KI) interviews and general observation in West Nile Sub-Region, Uganda, and Kalobayei, Kenya. These were done with displaced South Sudanese, host community government officials, and humanitarian actors.
Port and road monitoring was conducted on a regular and ongoing basis in Yambio, Kapoeta,
Akobo and Renk. This standardized survey of people arriving, departing and transiting through these locations reveals push and pull factors, intentions and movement history.
Additional KI interviews were conducted using REACH’s Area of Knowledge methodology (AoK). Most of these KIs were newly arrived to select Protection of Civilians (POC) and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) collection sites across South Sudan, and supplemented with remote phone calls to KIs living in settlements of interest. These interviews were conducted with selected participants using a standardised survey tool comprising questions on displacement trends, population needs, and access to basic services.
When available, data from IOM-DTM Flow Monitoring surveys was used to triangulate certain findings. Port monitoring data collection tools used by REACH and IOM-DTM were aligned starting January 2018; prior datasets are not comparable.
REACH synthesized the findings from this ongoing research to produce this overview of cross border-movement in key assessed areas.
This report examines trends in population displacement of South Sudanese, region specific movement patterns, and the situation in countries of refuge. It is important to note that displacement within South Sudan is not covered here, except where needed to explain related cross-border movements.
Data collection has been hampered by a challenging operational environment, due to insecurity and political sensitivity as well as weak transportation and communication networks across the region; broader data collection efforts are limited in most refugee hosting areas of South Sudan’s neighbours. As such, findings are indicative of the situation in assessed areas only.
Movement discussions primarily focus on Uganda (Moyo District, West Nile Sub-Region) and Kenya (Kalobayei and Kakuma, Turkana County), with some additional information on Ethiopia (Tirgol, Gambella Region) and Sudan (White Nile State), and limited information on Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic. Movement patterns in and out of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap and Maban are largely untracked in this report, but REACH is currently expanding its presence in these areas and will have more information in the future.