The 2020-2021 Regional Refugee Response Plan (Regional RRP) for the South Sudan situation seeks to provide a regionally coherent inter-agency response supported by host governments in five countries of asylum, including Ethiopia, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, and Sudan, over the next two years. This updated RRRP continues with the two-year cycle that was introduced with a view to ensuring longer-term predictability in the planning and programming of life-saving and resilience needs of South Sudanese refugees in the region.
Uganda currently hosts close to 861,500 South Sudanese refugees as of December 2019. In 2019, over 31,000 new arrivals entered Uganda, compared to over 40,000 new arrivals across 2018. While full food rations were restored for new arrivals, those who arrived prior to June 2015 no longer receive food assistance.
Sudan hosts over 810,900 South Sudanese refugees as of December 2019. The Government of Sudan estimates the number of South Sudanese refugees to be over 1.3 million. In 2019, Sudan received over 18,500 new refugees, a decrease from the number of new arrivals in 2018 which stood at 30,000. In the seventh year of the response in Sudan, there is a need to move beyond emergency assistance to focus on longer-term solutions, resilience and self-reliance for refugees living in camps and out-of-camp, as well as continued support for host communities.
Ethiopia hosts 334,000 South Sudanese refugees as of December 2019, making this the largest refugee population in the country. Over 8,300 new arrivals sought asylum in 2019. The vast majority were accommodated through the expansion of Nguenyyiel Camp in the Gambella Region, while a small number relocated to Gure Shembola Camp which was established in the neighbouring Benishangul Gumuz region in May 2017. Intra-communal tensions have remained rife in 2019 due to competition over scarce resources, land-related disputes, and demographic changes in the Gambella region. The Gambella region is overstretched by new arrivals and the Government of Ethiopia has called for new arrivals to be transferred to a settlement in the Benishangul Gumuz region. During this sensitive electoral period, increased support to host and refugee communities in Ethiopia will be key to preserve peace and social cohesion between communities which remains fragile.
In Kenya, most of the 121,400 refugees from South Sudan are hosted in Kakuma camp and Kalobyei settlement in Turkana county. Some 10,500 South Sudanese new arrivals sought asylum in Kenya in 2019. Kalobeyei settlement was conceived as a joint initiative by UNHCR and the regional government, with the aim of easing the pressure on Kakuma camps and transitioning from an aid-based model of refugee assistance to one focused on self-reliance. In 2018, the Government took on an increased role in the delivery of protection services, making significant achievements in handling reception facilities and conducting registration and refugee status determination with the aim of strengthening the national refugee management system.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) hosts close to 88,700 South Sudanese refugees by December 2019, including 5,800 who arrived in 2019. Over 63 per cent are children and 2.8 per cent are elderly. Some 62 per cent of the refugee population live outside of camps. The out-of-camp South Sudanese refugees and host population are among the most impoverished. The camp-based population is underserved in terms of meeting minimum standards for basic assistance. The South Sudanese refugee population are in a remote part of the DRC and receive little international support or attention despite having heightened protection needs affecting children, women and the elderly. Thousands live with impoverished host communities along the border, facing significant security challenges, lack of services, and food insecurity.
In 2020, the Regional RRP is expected to cater for 2.2 million South Sudanese refugees in the five neighboring countries. In 2021, that figure is anticipated to slightly reduce to 2.1 million subject to the revitalized peace agreement currently being implemented. While an estimated 200,000 South Sudanese refugees were reported to have returned spontaneously since 2017, these returns have not be sustainable and led to a majority living in IDP like situations. Ongoing protracted displacement of South Sudanese refugees is expected to exert further pressure on the already limited economic resources of the host countries. The South Sudanese refugee situation remains the largest in Africa and third largest globally, which urgently calls for greater international solidarity and responsibility sharing – key principles that underpin the Global Compact for Refugees.