JRS mobilising along Sudan’s borders
The armed conflict in Khartoum and Darfur between rival factions of the military government of Sudan that began on 15 April 2023 has so far claimed the lives of almost 500 people, with thousands injured.
JRS South Sudan has a significant presence in Maban County, Upper Nile, on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. Noelle Fitzpatrick, Director of JRS South Sudan, reports that they are preparing for an influx of refugees into South Sudan.
Noelle, who returned home only days ago, says they have already witnessed the movement of high numbers of people from the areas in conflict to safer areas within Sudan and across international borders into Chad, South Sudan, and Ethiopia where JRS also have operations. “There are many thousands of South Sudanese still living in Sudan, and many of the JRS team in Maban in particular have relatives there that they are worried about,” says Noelle.
As of Monday 24 April 2023, there was an estimated 9,000 people moving into South Sudan and heading toward the city of Renk in Upper Nile State. This is the nearest city to the JRS area of operation and the major artery for food, nonfood, and fuel supplies into this part of South Sudan. These people included Sudanese refugees, South Sudanese returnees who have been living in Sudan for some years, and other migrants and asylum seekers.
“JRS is coordinating with other agencies under UNHCR to assess the numbers and needs of people arriving into Renk and the plan is that they will be supported to move from the border to two reception centres (to be established,) that will serve as triage and identify key priority needs,” she says.
Noelle is concerned that any disruption to this pipeline of supply from Sudan into Renk will have implications for South Sudan and the areas JRS is working in. “Prices will be inflated and fuel may be in short supply, affecting operations,” she notes, adding that some shops in the small market in Bunj town close to JRS base in Maban closed in the first few days of the conflict with traders reportedly going to Sudan to try to support the relocation of their loved ones. “As JRS we are currently trying to ‘contingency plan’ for this arrival of new refugees and also for the inflation/supply shortages anticipated. We want to see how we can stretch our resources and ration our fuel consumption.”
In Maban JRS already works in support of the more than 160,000 strong population of refugees from the Blue Nile and Kordofan States in Sudan, who have been displaced because of previous and prolonged conflict in South Sudan. Noelle says that it is not yet clear how many more refugees will cross the border into South Sudan as a result of this fresh conflict, and how many may be facilitated to find support within Renk, or within Maban.
As the humanitarian effort to cater to the emergency needs of newly arrived Sudanese and other asylum seekers into the northern parts of South Sudan ramps up she believes it likely that South Sudanese returnees will be facilitated in some way to travel onward to their place of origin or destination in South Sudan.
“This is a rapidly evolving and fluid situation which we, together with others, will need to develop a response to day by day,” she concludes.