The 2022 Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP) for the South Sudan situation outlines the multi-agency response strategy and financial requirements of 102 partners, including humanitarian and development actors as well as civil society, supporting host governments to meet the critical needs of over 2.33 million South Sudanese refugees living across the five main asylum countries. In addition, the plan aims at assisting over 1.3 million impacted members of host communities.
The interagency response plan, developed in accordance with the Refugee Coordination Model (RCM), takes a comprehensive and solutions-oriented approach. RRRP partners will reinforce the response to meet the lifesaving needs of South Sudanese refugees whilst strengthening national protection and resilience mechanisms in asylum countries. Given the need to move beyond emergency assistance to overcome the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, strengthen the resilience and self-reliance for South Sudanese refugees and support host communities to enhance peaceful coexistence, the 2022 RRRP envisages stronger engagement with development and peacebuilding partners. The IGAD Support Platform provides a strategic mechanism for mobilizing political, financial, material and technical support for the implementation of the policy commitments made.
In line with the Global Compact on Refugees, RRRP partners plan to advance refugee integration into national systems, such as education, health, environment, livelihoods, child protection and community-based protection mechanisms, and birth registration. A key priority in 2022 will be promoting socio-economic inclusion and access to livelihoods opportunities for urban and camp-based refugees and mitigating chronic food insecurity and its impact on refugees, including by increased agro-pastoral production. RRRP partners will prioritize innovative approaches, expand cashbased interventions (CBIs) to increase refugees’ self-reliance, integrate the refugee response into local and national development plans, and support initiatives to promote socio-economic growth which benefits both refugee and host communities in a sustainable manner. Interventions are also foreseen to further promote climate action including by ensuring sustainable energy and preventing/reversing environmental degradation in refugee settings to the benefit of the larger community. The response aims to empower refugees and to increase society’s resilience to climate change.
Climate change has severe and lasting impacts on the environment, economic and social development, particularly for women and girls, the most vulnerable and marginalized. Addressing gender equality in the context of climate crisis and disaster risk reduction is therefore a global challenge.
RRRP partners will continue to support national child protection systems, including birth registration, Best Interests Procedure, family reunification and alternative care placement, as well as enhance access to quality education. RRRP partners will also intensify Protection against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) measures, such as its prevention and response, community and partner engagement, coordination as well as mainstreaming PSEA in the Core Humanitarian Standards, stipulated in the IASC Minimum Operating Standards1 . The UNHCR Policy on the Prevention of, Risk Mitigation and Response to Gender-Based Violence (2020)2 ; Core Outcome areas, leadership and accountabilities will be promoted. Support to persons with specific needs will be prioritized, including those with disabilities, to foster the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities3 and its policy. Furthermore, communitybased protection mechanisms will be consolidated and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) upscaled.
Activities to strengthen empowerment of communities and accountability towards affected populations are core elements of the regional refugee response. The RRRP will also facilitate refugees’ participation in peacebuilding initiatives, promoting social cohesion between refugee and host communities and national reconciliation efforts in South Sudan.
While political, security, human rights and rule of law changes are underway in South Sudan, the impact of these changes are not uniformly witnessed across the country and may compromise the feasibility of return. In its most recent position on returns to South Sudan, UNHCR reiterates its call on States to refrain from forcibly returning South Sudanese nationals or habitual residents of South Sudan to any part of the country.4 The protracted conflict, devastating floods and increased outbreaks of sub-national intercommunal violence have left 2 million South Sudanese internally displaced across all 78 counties. The situation has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, limitations on humanitarian access, and severe flooding leading to additional forced displacement in 2021. Currently, South Sudan is facing its highest levels of food insecurity since its independence in 2011, with over 8.3 million people needing assistance, including some 7 million facing severe food insecurity (IPC levels 3-5).
Complementing the peace processes and economic reforms in Sudan and South Sudan, the Solutions Initiative for Sudan’s and South Sudan’s forcibly displaced was launched in October 2020 as a flagship activity of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Support Platform, and with the support of UNHCR. It aims to galvanize a stronger collective response to create enabling conditions for durable solutions (voluntary repatriation, local integration, and resettlement/complementary pathways), as well as to strengthen asylum by addressing the humanitarian, development and peace-related needs of over seven million refugees and IDPs as well as millions of displacement-affected communities in and from Sudan and South Sudan.
The Solutions Initiative is a dual-track process, which involves generating and sustaining the political commitment for solutions, while pursuing a comprehensive and government-led approach to the operationalization of the political commitments. The Solutions Initiative supports the implementation of the 2022 RRRP by mobilizing investments for medium- and long-term interventions in refugee hosting areas in countries of asylum, while concurrently creating conditions conducive to safe and sustainable return of refugees to South Sudan. The RRRP is supportive of the South Sudan national solutions framework, which is predicated on an integrated solutions approach to refugees, IDPs and host communities.
The pledges made by South Sudan and the five RRRP countries at the Global Refugee Forum in December 2019 and reinforced at the High-Level Officials Meeting in December 20215, contribute to an integrated protection and solutions strategy for South Sudanese refugees. RRRP partners in all countries are working with host governments to promote the inclusion of refugees in national systems and ensure their access to basic services alongside host communities.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions imposed by asylum states at border entry points, over 88,000 newly arrived South Sudanese refugees were registered in the asylum countries in 2021. Based on current projections, the overall refugee population is expected to grow (new arrivals and population growth minus self-organized returns) by over 56,000 to an estimated 2.33 million refugees at the end of 2022. Movement trends could however be impacted in anticipation of planned elections in 2023. In any case, it is crucial to further enhance the protection of South Sudanese refugees in the DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda, while at the same time reinforcing solutions-oriented approaches to resolve the protracted refugee situation.
The 2022 Regional Refugee Response Plan for the South Sudan situation seeks to provide a regionally coherent interagency response to support host governments in the five countries of asylum.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) hosts some 56,000 South Sudanese refugees. Despite border closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 620 new refugee arrivals and 35 South Sudanese refugees who had already been staying for longer periods in the DRC were registered in 2021. The South Sudanese refugee population is staying in a remote part of the DRC, where the security environment is extremely challenging, limiting RRP partners’ capacity to reach refugees. This is also one of the reasons for the inadequate international support to address the refugees’ heightened protection needs, in particular those with specific needs. The population living in the refugee sites of Biringi (7,911), Bele (2,539) and Meri (26,000) is underserved, with inadequate shelters, water, education and livelihoods activities, due to severe underfunding. In addition, some 62 per cent of the refugee population lives outside of camps with impoverished host communities along the border, facing significant security challenges, lack of services and food insecurity. New refugee arrivals at the border are being relocated to the Bele and Biringi sites to prevent exposure to protection risks, given the porous nature of the borders, possible incursions and sporadic attacks by armed groups.
The South Sudanese refugee population is projected to increase to around 60,000 by the end of 2022.
Ethiopia hosts some 400,000 South Sudanese refugees, making this the largest refugee population in the country.
Despite the temporary closure of its land borders to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Ethiopia recorded some 17,000 new South Sudanese refugees in 2021. The majority of the South Sudanese refugees are sheltered in seven camps in the Gambella region and in five settlements in Benishangul Gumuz. The security situation in both regions remains volatile. Increased support to host and refugee communities in Ethiopia will be key to promote community security, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence. In light of the current trends, the South Sudanese refugee population is expected to grow to over 429,000 by the end of 2022.
In Kenya, most of the over 130,000 South Sudanese refugees are hosted in the Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei settlement in Turkana County. Gains made on self-reliance and resilience under the Kalobeyei Integrated SocioEconomic Development Plan (KISEDP) in Turkana West should be continued as an example of the humanitariandevelopment nexus and requires further investment. In 2021, some 4,000 new South Sudanese refugees were registered, including a large number of unaccompanied/separated children. RRP partners anticipate significant additional refugee influxes from South Sudan into Kakuma in 2022. It is estimated that the South Sudanese refugee population will increase to 143,000 by the end of 2022, due to new arrivals and births.
Sudan registered the largest increase of the South Sudanese refugee population in 2021, with 81,203 new South Sudanese refugee arrivals, reaching a total population of over 803,634 at the end of 2021. In response to the increased number of arrivals, RRP partners expanded camp capacity, especially in White Nile state, to accommodate new arrivals and provide basic services. By the end of December 2021, nearly 64 per cent of the South Sudanese refugees were individually registered and 8 per cent were registered at household level, a significant increase from the previous year.
Due to the ongoing instability in South Sudan and continuous movements across the border as well as population growth, UNHCR projects an increase of South Sudanese refugees in 2022 reaching a total number of 811,000 by the end of 2022.
In Uganda, despite border closures, South Sudanese refugees continued crossing into the country through unofficial entry points. By the end of December 2021, there were some 950,000 South Sudanese refugees registered in Uganda, the largest South Sudanese refugee population in the region. RRP partners estimate that in 2022 some 50,000 South Sudanese will return in a self-organized manner, with 25,000 new arrivals to Uganda over the same period, bringing the total number of South Sudanese refugees hosted in the country to about 888,000 by the end of 2022. Despite Uganda’s favourable protection environment, refugees are faced with numerous protection challenges due to the magnitude of forced displacement and growing vulnerabilities, compounded by diminishing resources and strained essential social services in refugee-hosting districts. Drastic food ration cuts and COVID-19 prevention measures have posed additional challenges for refugees in terms of their livelihoods and food security. Application of the Global Compact on Refugees and the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) in Uganda places a strong focus on self-reliance of refugees and host communities and strengthening local service delivery for both.
The South Sudanese refugee situation remains the largest in Africa, which urgently requires greater responsibilitysharing in a spirit of solidarity – a key principle underpinning the Global Compact on Refugees.