Global Report 2022
2022 Year-end population figures
Refugees: 2.3 million South Sudanese refugees
IDPs: 1.5 million
Refugee returns: 151,300
2022 Situation overview
The South Sudanese refugee population, the largest in the region, remains extremely vulnerable. At the end of 2022, there were 2.3 million South Sudanese refugees in camps, settlements, and urban areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda, living in precarious conditions, exacerbated by the ongoing drought and food insecurity. After nearly a decade of conflict and despite efforts toward implementing the peace agreement, South Sudan continued to grapple with sporadic violence, economic instability and the devastating impact of massive flooding.
Armed conflict escalated in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state and displaced thousands of people internally and across borders. The armed conflict erupted in August in the village of Tonga in Upper Nile state, but violence then spread further in Upper Nile state, Unity state and northern parts of Jonglei state, displacing at least 20,000 people. In September 2022, UNHCR declared an internal Level 1 Emergency in South Sudan due to the combined impact on the civilian population of the Tonga conflict and the unabated flooding. This enabled UNHCR to quickly inject additional emergency resources for the needs of the growing number of IDPs in Upper Nile, Unity and northern parts of Jonglei, and to proactively prepare for further response measures. As part of this emergency response in South Sudan, UNHCR increased its protection services and assistance capacity, including through the Cash Plus approach. Cash Plus is a case management approach that looks at the needs of displaced people more holistically, and therefore integrates multi-purpose cash assistance with needed service provision, assistance to enable the use of the cash and/or to address additional basic services and assistance needs, in addition to proactive risk mitigation. It helps ensure that no one is left behind by identifying those most in need, vulnerable or at risk. UNHCR increased its mobile response capacity through additional boats to respond to the flooding emergency in key response areas in Unity and Upper Nile states.
The situation in South Sudan was extremely challenging in 2022. The Government had limited capacity to respond to humanitarian needs, and most IDPs, refugees and returnees were living in remote areas of a country that has limited connectivity and infrastructure, where roads are seasonally inaccessible due to heavy flooding.
While UNHCR did not promote or facilitate returns, close to 600,000 South Sudanese have spontaneously returned on their own since 2018, although some of the returns may have been pendular. In 2022, in response to the growing number of self-organized returns, UNHCR developed a solutions-oriented, area-based approach. This involves investing in medium- to long-term development and peace interventions in high return areas, dubbed “Pockets of Hope”. Returnees and local communities in these areas benefit from enhanced living conditions and livelihood opportunities, strengthened local systems, and greater access to services through inclusive Government- and/or community-led projects.
Governments in the five countries of asylum were supported in their efforts to integrate South Sudanese refugees in national systems for social service delivery. Refugees and local communities were supported to boost their resilience by identifying and diversifying opportunities to earn a living. Nevertheless, with new refugees continuing to arrive in 2022, especially in Uganda, where 50,000 new South Sudanese refugees were received, host countries continued to grapple with limited resources for a situation that remained severely underfunded. Three of the main refugee hosting countries – Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda – were highlighted in UNHCR’s Underfunded Report of 2022 as having limited resources to respond to some of the basic needs for refugees. The South Sudan situation, despite being the largest refugee crisis in Africa, only received 30% of the $1.2 billion requested in the 2022 Regional Refugee Response Plan.
Global Appeal 2023
2023 population planning figures
Refugees and asylum-seekers: 2.19 million
IDPs: 2.27 million
Refugee returnees*: 661,000
Stateless persons: 16,000
*Cumulative refugee returnees. It is possible that some of these recorded returns will represent pendular movements.
2023 situation overview
The South Sudanese refugee population, more than 65% of whom are children, remains extremely vulnerable. This protracted situation is the largest refugee situation on the African continent. Over 2.3 million refugees hosted in neighbouring countries live in often precarious conditions, exacerbated by various factors such as the extreme drought and food insecurity situation in the region and the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 90,000 South Sudanese have fled to neighbouring countries since the beginning of 2022, while 87,000 returns have been recorded.
After nearly a decade of conflict and despite efforts toward implementing the peace agreement, South Sudan continues to grapple with sporadic violence, chronic food insecurity and devastating flooding, often affecting achievements on the humanitarian front.
The UNHCR non-return advisory advises States against the forced return of refugees to South Sudan, and UNHCR does not facilitate return, however, over 600,000 have chosen to return on their own accord since 2017 to areas that are often unable to provide basic services. UNHCR will implement the “Pockets of hope” initiative to help returning refugees have a successful fresh start.
In 2023, UNHCR will continue to provide support to host countries to uphold the quality of asylum for South Sudanese refugees in the region, with keen attention provided to women and children, who make up the majority of refugees. Life-saving support will include preventing and responding to gender-based violence as well as contributing to gender-based violence risk mitigation across the response. Legal and physical protection will be strengthened and biometric registration, documentation, and data management in collaboration with host governments will be enhanced. The social cohesion between refugees and host communities will also be promoted, as well as working with asylum countries to achieve comprehensive and sustainable solutions. UNHCR will also maintain readiness for any possible displacement linked to the scheduled general election in 2024.
The South Sudan Regional Refugee Response Plan includes 105 operational partners and will cater to the needs of nearly 2.16 million South Sudanese refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda in 2023.
Global Report 2021
2021 Year-end population figures
- Refugees: 2.34 million
- IDPs: 2.02 million
- Returns: 630,000 self-organized refugee returns since November 2017
2021 Situation Overview
After nearly a decade of conflict and despite efforts toward implementing the peace agreement, South Sudan continued to grapple with sporadic violence, chronic food insecurity and the devastating impact of major flooding in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has also strained people’s resources, significantly reducing their ability to sustainably meet their needs.
The South Sudan situation continued to be the largest refugee crisis in Africa, and one of the most underfunded, with the Regional Refugee Response Plan only 17% funded. Despite some progress, peace remained fragile and humanitarian challenges, including acute food insecurity, persisted. While UNHCR did not promote or facilitate returns, over 630,000 South Sudanese have spontaneously returned since 2017, although some of the returns may have been pendular. In response to the growing number of self-organized returns, UNHCR developed a solutions-oriented, area-based approach targeting high return areas through investments in medium to long-term development and peace interventions, called “Pockets of hope,” which will be piloted in 2022. Intention-to-return surveys for South Sudanese refugees in Sudan and Uganda were carried out in 2021 to inform planning and will be carried out in Ethiopia in 2022.
Governments in the five countries of asylum were supported in their efforts to integrate South Sudanese refugees in national systems for social service delivery. Refugees and local communities received help to boost their resilience by identifying and diversifying opportunities to earn a living. This was vital against a backdrop of chronic underfunding for food provision, which continued to result in regular food ration cuts.
The South Sudan situation remained a children’s crisis, with two out of three South Sudanese refugees under the age of 18. Funding was required for child protection services including to ensure proper birth registration and family reunification. Many children who were affected by school closures during the pandemic in the region needed additional support to continue with learning, including additional radio programmes which were made available for primary and secondary learners as a major remote learning modality. To assist learners who did not have access to radios, UNHCR distributed solar-charging radios to households with school-aged children to support their continuity of learning as well as self-study materials and textbooks.