The number of South Sudanese refugees sheltering in neighbouring countries has this week passed the 1 million mark, including more than 185,000 people who have fled since fresh violence erupted in the country in Juba on July 8. With this milestone, South Sudan joins Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia as countries which have produced more than a million refugees.
Most of the recent arrivals have crossed into Uganda (143,164), but a surge of people have entered western Ethiopia’s Gambella region in the past week and others have been heading to Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic. These countries have commendably kept their doors open to the new arrivals.
The violence in July came as a major setback to peace efforts in South Sudan, coming as the fledgling country prepared to celebrate its fifth anniversary and amid a short-lived peace deal between supporters of President Salva Kiir and former First Vice President Riek Machar.
The fighting has shattered hopes for a real breakthrough and triggered new waves of displacement and suffering, while humanitarian organizations are finding it very difficult for logistical, security and funding reasons to provide urgent protection and assistance to the hundreds of thousands in need, including 1.61 million internally displaced people.