GENEVA, Switzerland, July 9, 2020/ — Nine years since South Sudan gained independence and became the world’s youngest nation, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency is calling on the country’s leaders to reinvigorate efforts to establish lasting peace and bring an end to Africa’s largest displacement crisis.
“It’s crucial that South Sudan continues on the road to lasting peace,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “After years of conflict, the South Sudanese people deserve the chance to return to their homes, to live in safety in their communities and to focus on building a bright and prosperous future.”
Notable steps forward have been made and deserve recognition, including the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict signed in 2018, and the formation of a Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity in February 2020.
South Sudan has also shown commendable commitment to welcoming people fleeing war and persecution, including during the COVID-19 pandemic when hundreds of refugees have arrived in the country from Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR). The signing of the Kampala Convention committing the country to uphold the rights and protections for internally displaced people (IDPS) is another favorable milestone.
However, increasing violence in 2020, particularly in Jonglei, and Central Equatoria, threaten to destabilize these hard-won efforts.
Tens of thousands of people have become newly displaced and hundreds more have lost their lives. Women and children have been particularly affected. Sexual violence remains widespread, as well as abductions, and the destruction of people’s properties.
Ending violence has never been more urgently needed as the impacts of fighting are further compounded by COVID-19. Restrictions on movement due to the lockdown are hampering the ability of humanitarian organisations to deliver aid. UNHCR and partners are on the ground providing emergency kits and temporary shelters, while stepping up community engagement to address COVID-19 concerns among displaced communities.
UNHCR calls on all parties to the violence to urgently implement a ceasefire, particularly as the pandemic is expected to reach its peak in the coming months. Every effort must be made to limit the spread of the virus, while the country’s health system, weakened by years of conflict, must be supported to meet the coming challenges.
We will continue to stand in solidarity with the people of South Sudan and support the government with its humanitarian needs and building capacity, including in relation to the pandemic response.