GENEVA - The U.N. refugee agency is appealing for $2.7 billion to assist more than two million refugees from South Sudan. The refugees are living in bare-bones conditions in six neighboring countries, and funds to provide for their basic needs are running short.
South Sudan is Africa’s largest refugee crisis and one of its most seriously under-funded. The U.N. refugee agency reports its last appeal for $1.4 billion was only 38 percent funded.
It is urging donors to be more generous in supporting the current two-year appeal. It says the money will provide desperately needed assistance to the refugees and the largely impoverished communities hosting them.
The UNHCR notes the level of violence in South Sudan has gone down since the peace deal was signed in September after five years of brutal civil war. Agency spokesman Charlie Yaxley tells VOA since then, there has been a significant decrease in the number of refugees fleeing South Sudan.
“Currently, the numbers are around three to four thousand per month. But when we compare that to last year, that is less than half of what we were seeing before," Yaxley said. "So, we have seen areas where people are fleeing from stabilizing to an extent. There is still a long way to go with that. UNHCR does not yet consider the situation in South Sudan to be conducive for people to start returning.”
Yaxley says lack of funds has forced aid agencies to make severe cuts in their humanitarian operations. For instance, he says half of South Sudan’s refugee children are unable to go to school because of a shortage of teachers, classrooms, and educational material.
He says there are not enough doctors, nurses, and medication to treat the ill. He says lack of money has led to cuts in food rations for refugees in Ethiopia.
One of his agency’s primary concerns, he says, is to provide psycho-social counseling to women and children who have been raped and victimized by other forms of sexual and gender-based violence. Because of the stigma attached to sexual assault, he says the extent of this abuse is hugely under-reported.