Do not forsake us: UNHCR South Sudan office appeals to donors

Do not forsake us: UNHCR South Sudan office appeals to donors
Arafat Jamal, South Sudan country representative of the United Nations High Commission for Refugee (UNHCR) speaking to the The City Review on Friday a head of the World Refugee Day in his office. [Keji Janefer, City Review]

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in South Sudan has made a passionate appeal to donors to continue funding their programs in the country because of the dire humanitarian support they have to give to the affected populations.

The UNHCR’s South Sudan representative, Arafat Jamal, told The City Review that they are yet to meet their targets in transitioning refugees under their programs from humanitarian aid to self-sufficiency.

“We have received assurances from many donors that what is happening, for example, in Ukraine, will affect our funding here, but we have to be realistic,” said Arafat.

The World Food Programme (WFP) made a surprise announcement that it was going to slash food provision to South Sudan because of financial constraints, a move that leaves 1.7 million people at risk of starvation.

It also cautioned that unless more funding is obtained, more dramatic cuts will be necessary, leaving vulnerable people unable to fulfill their basic food needs and forcing them to resort to survival measures such as skipping or limiting meals, selling assets, employing child labor, and child marriage.

But Arafat says the refugee agency is now investing in a refugee agriculture program that will make the refugees self-sufficient in terms of food production.

“We know that the resources are limited and we know that what seems to be worsening the economy globally, countries may be less generous.” So, at the moment, as of today, no, we are not yet affected, but we have to be realistic, it is going to come soon and we are preparing for that, “he said.

“We are trying to prepare in a positive way. We are looking seriously at investing in agriculture solutions in South Sudan. Only four percent of araballand in this country is actually cultivated, so there is a lot of potential there. It means that donors should not drop us too rapidly; we need them to hold their hands for the next few years so that we can invest in that and take people away from relief and towards development” Arafat stressed.

He said the decision by WFP would have an impact on refugees, and that UNHCR and WFP would collaborate on how best to use the limited resources available to address refugee welfare.

“This is a tremendous development, and we stand together with our WFP colleagues in our efforts to end the situation,” added Arafat. “It appears that the Ukraine crisis, a combination of rising food prices and donor attention on the Ukraine, has exacerbated a global trend that they have been seeing for months, if not years, when they have cut food ratios across the board, including to refugees, and it appears that it has been exacerbated by the Ukraine crisis,” he said.

“Refugees at this point are surviving on only 50 per cent of the ratio. That means that a refugee is expected to eat around 1,000 curlews a day. If you can imagine yourself eating only 1,000 carrots day after day, you will release the hardship that you are facing.”

Refugees in South Sudan are mostly concentrated in Ruweng, Upper Nile, and other parts of Equatoria, where UNHCR runs camps that provide shelter, medical care, education, and try to establish livelihood and farming programs. Other partners aiding the refugees include UNICEF, international and local organizations in the country, as well as the World Food Programme.

“What we are trying to do with WPF is really to work on seeing how we can best use the resources so that those most vulnerable, those most malnourished are given the things that they need, and secondly, to see if there are alternatives.” “South Sudan is a very generous country to refugees. It does give them land and we can kick start agriculture for them so that they don’t have to be dependent on handouts year after year.” South Sudan UNHCR chief revealed their plans for the refugees.