Sudanese and South Sudanese have already undergone decades of violence and displacement (Andrew Ash/Jesuit Refugee Service).
During this outburst of violence, 3,500 took refuge in Catholic churches and thousands more in United Nations Protection of Civilian sites. Sadly, violence seeped into these UN sites meant to protect and provide emergency humanitarian assistance, killing and wounding many civilians and peace keepers.
Following the evacuation of most foreign staff, relative calm has ensued, but signs of long-term peace are non-existent. Some staff members in South Sudan have been evacuated, but many remain to continue activities.
On his recent visit to Juba, South Sudan’s capital, Cardinal Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice at the Vatican, asked:
"How can we ensure safety and security for the people so that they can be able to live in their houses and be able to provide development in the area … so that they can find their way in helping South Sudan to develop and grow?"
JRS reiterates this question with the hope that peace, education and progress will prevail for the people of South Sudan, rather than war and further years of suffering and mass displacement. Despite a few interruptions to normal activities, JRS continues to provide valuable educational services to conflict-affected communities within and outside of South Sudan.
In Maban, JRS educational services, including teacher trainings, school sponsorship, adult English classes, and psychosocial outreach, continue.
In Yambio, located in the Western Equatoria state of South Sudan, armed groups have occupied the territory since January. The recent outbreak of fighting has caused schools and roads to close down. Thus, JRS trainings for school administrators have been postponed while young girls in Yambio and 20 teachers in Yei sponsored by JRS are unable to attend classes until the security situation improves.
During the second week of July, nearly 10,000 internally displaced people were registered in Yambio, half of whom were children. Throughout the country, an estimated 36,000 people have become internally displaced during this outbreak of violence, according to the UN Office for Coordination and Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), adding to the 1.6 million already internally displaced.
Additionally, the United Nations expects the number of refugees seeking exile in neighbouring countries to reach one million by the end of the year.
“Many people are leaving Juba every day for Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and other destinations of safety. People still do not trust the present fragile peace in Juba," said JRS South Sudan director, Daniel Akau.
In Kenya, Kakuma refugee camp near the border of South Sudan could receive an influx of up to 100,000 people if violence continues.
In Uganda, influxes of South Sudanese refugees have hit record levels with 30,000 fleeing to the country in three weeks and 8,300 people seeking refuge in northern camps in a single day last week. Women and children make up 90 percent of new arrivals, many of them are malnourished and in need of medical support.
"The 14 existing settlements are full; UNHCR and partners opened a new settlement at Pagirinya that already has 20,000 refugees. The needs are enormous and the resources are scarce," said JRS Project Director in Adjumani, Isaac Ijjo, in northern Uganda.
A UN refugee agency official reported that "we've received nearly as many refugees in the last week as we had done in the first six months of 2016" adding that reception centers are "severely over capacity."
Other humanitarians in the area say there is far too little support to respond with adequate food, medical care and other crucial services to the refugees. The United Nations and humanitarian agencies will need increased and sustainable support from the international community to meet the needs of nearly a million refugees.
In South Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya, Jesuit Refugee Service continues to provide education amidst emergency while also prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of our teams on the ground.
Ongoing conflict and displacement in the country have already interrupted the lives of millions over the decades. The hundreds of South Sudanese who JRS accompanies are still determined to not allow violence to stop their education – they remain committed to learning and contributing to the peaceful development of their communities. So does JRS.
For more information contact:
Angela Wells, JRS Eastern Africa Communications Officer, email@example.com, +254 715 33 2035