Over 1,000,000 South Sudanese refugees now in Uganda

World Vision ambassador Jerome Flynn says he is ‘changed forever’ after hearing heart-rending stories from war-scarred children in South Sudan.


Jerome met traumatised children last month on a fact-finding trip organised by international charity World Vision. South Sudan is the world’s youngest country, gaining independence in 2011. The East African country has been convulsed by a five-year long civil war which has killed at least 400,000 people. Over 19,000 children have been conscripted into various armed groups.


“Children told me about unimaginable horrors they had seen and experienced,” Jerome says. “Some children were kidnapped by armed groups and forced to fight and kill and watch other children get killed for not keeping up. Others fled torched homes and villages and sought refuge in camps for displaced people, with little food and no education. Many lost mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters and were forced to make choices no child should have to make, just to survive.


"I met families torn apart because of the conflict and talked to parents who had sons and daughters snatched from them,” he continued. At times I found their stories of what they had to endure almost too painful to bear.


“Yet I also saw hope in a country ripped apart by war. Dedicated World Vision aid workers are helping desperate families stitch their lives together amid the chaos. I was blown away by the resilience of the children, humbled by their spirit, and inspired by their determination to find happiness. 


“I saw how war costs children their innocence but does not always destroy their childhoods. The bravery of the children I met will stay with me forever.”


Full-blown conflict is likely to flare up again in South Sudan unless a national army of government and rebel forces is formed by May 12. More children and young people could then be forced into the bush to take up arms or flee the fighting. 


Jerome says: “South Sudan’s latest peace deal is on a short fuse and the situation is desperate. Help is needed urgently to protect children from further violence. Sadly, there are thousands of children across the world who need support right now. Please give generously to help them.”


Jerome’s trip forms part of World Vision’s Made for More appeal for funds to protect the world’s most vulnerable children.


As the one millionth South Sudanese refugee enters Uganda this week, fears are rising that young people may be returning to South Sudan to participate in the conflict.

A new study led by international aid agency World Vision has found that opportunities to make a living within Uganda’s refugee settlements are severely limited. Without reliable ways to earn money or occupy themselves in the refugee camps, experts are concerned that children will return to South Sudan to join the fighting.

The report found that the majority of paid work that does exist is part-time and pays less than 10,000 UGX (£2.14) per week.

“People told us they’re worried about the growing cost of food in the market, their lack of means to earn an income and, for refugees, their reliance on food assistance,” said Benson Okabo, World Vision’s Operation Director of the West Nile Refugee Response.

The study interviewed 1,135 refugee and host community families in Arua District in northern Uganda, and learned that while the majority of the population are young people, most of them remain unemployed.

With more than one million refugees from South Sudan in Uganda, we have to make sure that children on the move are protected and that when they arrive, they are able to have opportunities to fully participate in society here.

Otherwise, with no options, there is a fear that they may return to South Sudan and take part in the conflict.

- Enid Kabasinguzi Ocaya, World Vision’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Humanitarian Emergency Affairs Manager, Uganda.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today reiterated its call to the international community for urgent additional support for the South Sudan refugee situation. The funding shortfall in Uganda is now significantly impacting the abilities to deliver life-saving aid and key basic services, a UNHCR statement said.

In June, the World Food Programme was forced to cut food rations for refugees. Across settlements in northern Uganda, health clinics are being forced to provide vital medical care with too few doctors, healthcare workers and medicines.

“Uganda is leading the world in their refugee response. They’ve provided refugee families with plots of land so that people can build homes and grow gardens. The government is working hand-in-hand with organisations to deliver food, water, child protection programmes and other essential services,” said Gilbert Kamanga, World Vision’s National Director in Uganda.

“Now is the time to further develop livelihood and peacebuilding projects to assist refugees integrate and regain a sense of self-reliance,” Kamanga said. World Vision has been responding to the refugee crisis in Uganda since 2014.

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