A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Starting in November 2011, thousands of refugees fleeing aerial bombardments and food shortages in Blue Nile, Sudan, arrived in Maban County, in Upper Nile state, South Sudan. The international community and the Government of South Sudan were poorly prepared to effectively meet the needs of these refugees and, as a result, refugees suffered unnecessarily.
Eighteen months into the response the situation for refugees remains fragile. With the rainy season due to begin in May and a Hepatitis E outbreak ongoing, at least twenty-five thousand refugees need to be relocated, and a further influx of refugees is predicted.
Through concerted action, the humanitarian community can avoid repeating past mistakes to shape what happens now and in the future. Working together, the UN, the Government of South Sudan, NGOs and donors must improve the quality of the humanitarian response and accountability to refugees and the communities that host them.
With the next rainy season due to start in May 2013, concerted action is needed from UNHCR, the GRSS, donors and NGOs, including Oxfam, to meet the needs of both refugee and host populations.
Seven key areas should be prioritized:
- Work with the Government of Sudan to end the conflict in Blue Nile and South Kordofan States;
- Ensure better funding for the humanitarian response;
- Identify clear realistic timelines and critical milestones for the preparation of the new Kaya site to relocate refugees from Jamam and Doro, and to establish a second site for new refugees;
- Co-ordinate better for higher quality service delivery;
- Build up state capacity to lead the response;
- Improve protection of refugees, particularly women and children;
- Reduce tensions between refugees and host communities, including through a more integrated response.
Photos: Refugees from Blue Nile state