from RAJI BASHIR in Khartoum, Sudan
KHARTOUM, (CAJ News) – CHAD, the Central African Republic (CAR), Ethiopia, Libya and South Sudan are synonymous with conflict and/or hunger.
Sudan has over the years been a destination of refuge for these nationals seeking safety.
Meanwhile, humanitarian agencies are battling to cope with the crises in these countries experiencing an exodus of refugees .
Battling a myriad of disasters, CAR, Chad, Ethiopia, Libya and South Sudan are therefore not the type of countries you would envision receiving a surge of refugees from other countries.
The conflict in Sudan, since April 15, has changed this in a flash. Fighting has sent thousands of locals and those that were refugees in Sudan scurrying for supposed safety in these neighbouring nations.
This comes at a time when humanitarian agencies and host governments have been battling.
So immense is the crisis in Sudan that it has degenerated into a humanitarian catastrophe sweeping across the Central, East and North Africa.
CAR is Sudan’s southwestern neighbour. With half of the population not eating enough, has one of the highest proportions of critically food-insecure people in the world.
The civilian population in the country of 5 million continues to be victims of tensions and armed violence.
This year, 3,4 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection.
This has just gotten worse with thousands of Sudanese crossing the border to seek safety.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that around 10 000 individuals have arrived and are living in host families and spontaneous settlements in Am-Dafok, in the Vakaga prefecture.
This includes around 4 000 Central African returnees that had sought refuge in Sudan.
“The number displaced is expected to increase as registration is underway,” said an OCHA spokesperson.
Emergency shelter, essential household items, food and latrines are the most pressing needs.
OCHA is worried Am-Dafock is a flood-prone area and with the rainy season this month, humanitarian access will be limited.
Furthermore, the conflict in Sudan has gravely impacted CAR as Sudan supplies several towns in the country.
The severe disruption of traffic between Sudan and CAR has caused an alarming increase in the price of basic commodities.
A 50-kg bag of sugar, which sold for XAF40 000 (US$67,46) before the conflict, is now worth XAF 80,000 in Birao. A small bowl of millet that cost XAF500 is now worth XAF1 000.
XAF is the Central African Franc.
After over 11 years of independence (from Sudan), and four years after a revitalized peace agreement to end the civil war, the humanitarian situation in South Sudan was already deteriorating before the ongoing arrivals of thousands from Sudan.
Over 32 500 people have been registered crossing the border from Sudan into South Sudan, with the numbers likely to be higher as some people entered without registration.
On Thursday, the humanitarian community, including the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched an Emergency Response Plan (ERP), urgently appealing for US$96 million to assist the people arriving into South Sudan.
“The majority of those arriving, often with no belongings and very traumatised,” said Peter Van der Auweraert, the interim Humanitarian Coordinator.
Arrivals are in dire need of immediate humanitarian assistance, including medical and psychosocial support, and some with transportation to their destination, as some are South Sudanese returning home.
A potential 180 000 South Sudanese are projected to return in the next three months, 10 000 third-country nationals expected to transit through South Sudan and 60 000 refugees expected to arrive in the next six months if the conflict and tensions persist in Sudan.
Sudan has been home to more than 1,1 million refugees of whom 800 000 are South Sudanese.
Some 42 000 refugees have crossed the border from Sudan to Chad, to the west.
Dr Amadou Bocoum, Country Director for CARE in Chad, noted the context at the border was already delicate due to inter-community conflicts that are quite frequent.
“We have a duty to help these thousands of refugees regain their dignity,” CARE said.
“The current pressing needs that we have noted as the refugees arrive are food, water, and sanitation.”
Experts predict up to 100 000 people might flee into Chad which already hosts almost half a million refugees.
In East Africa, Ethiopia is emerging from a civil war that ravaged the northern parts of the country from late 2020.
The country, southeast of Sudan, is also battling an outbreak of diseases including malaria and measles, as well as drought.
Over 12 000 people have arrived in Metema, the border town between Sudan and Ethiopia, since fighting erupted in the former.
IOM has reported over 1 000 daily arrivals lately. Among them are Sudanese citizens, returning Ethiopians and third country nationals from Eritrea, Kenya and Somalia among more than 50 countries.
Among the most pressing needs are additional water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, food, shelter, medical assistance and onward transportation.
“We appreciate support from our donors who allowed us to immediately provide assistance while appealing to the international community for more funding to meet the crucial needs on the ground,” said Abibatou Wane-Fall, Chief of Mission to IOM Ethiopia.
In North Africa, the volatile Libya has received around 700 individuals from its southeastern neighbor Sudan.
These comprise Sudanese and third-country nationals.
They have been arriving in Alkufra.
IOM said, in collaboration with the government of Libya and other UN agencies and partners, is preparing a contingency plan to respond to a potential influx of migrants and refugees from Sudan into Libya.
Libya has been unstable since 2011 when President Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and later murdered.
The country has a reputation for hostility to migrants and refugees.
Another North African country, Egypt, has emerged the primary destination for people fleeing the conflict in Sudan.
Humanity and Inclusion (HI) has reported 42 300 arrivals so far, and the potential to receive as many as 300 000 refugees over the next six months.
HI reports that between 20 percent and 25 percent of the refugees are people with disabilities.
Caroline Dauber, HI Country Manager in Egypt, disclosed how people arriving are settling in the streets and occupying school buildings, as affordable and available accommodation is becoming scarce.
She said the pressure on the host community is increasing, resulting in rising prices and strain on services.
Most of the Sudanese refugees are in the main border city of Aswan.
“The situation is worrisome. Humanitarian aid needs to be organized quickly,” Dauber said.
Egypt is north of Sudan.
UNHCR, with partners, is planning for an outflow of 860 000 refugees and returnees from Sudan.
It will require $445 million to support the displaced until October.
Raouf Mazou, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, noted most of the countries receiving those fleeing Sudan, and Sudan itself, are operations which were already perennially underfunded and hosted large numbers of forcibly displaced people.
Most have so far received less than 15 percent of the 2023 funding needs.
“We urgently need timely, new funding to respond to the mounting needs,” Mazou added.
“The needs are vast, and the challenges are numerous. If the crisis continues, peace and stability across the region could be at stake.”
Fighting erupted in Sudan between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), aligned with de facto ruler, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
More than 500 people have been killed.
– CAJ News