A refugee camp in South Sudan/Photo: Screenshot/Video by Julio Brathwaite & Sonam Tharchen/UNMISS

Sudan: “One of the greatest humanitarian disasters of our time”

In commemoration of this year’s World’s Refugee Day on 20 June, the head of a Catholic relief organisation has described the refugee crisis in South Sudan as “one of the greatest humanitarian disasters of our time”. He has now challenged the international community to live up to its responsibility in the country by putting the crisis “right at the top of the agenda”

Munich / Renk (South Sudan). “We want to take World Refugee Day on Thursday as an opportunity to draw urgently needed attention to the dramatic situation of refugees from Sudan who are stranded in the neighbouring country of South Sudan,” emphasises Monsignor Wolfgang Huber, President of the International Catholic Relief Organisation missio Munich.

Up to 2,000 people reach the border town of Renk in South Sudan every day. They come from Sudan, where horrific fighting has been raging since April 2023 and has torn almost the entire country apart. “It is one of the greatest humanitarian disasters of our time,” warns the missio President. “People are fleeing to a country that can barely survive itself.”

“The reception centre near Renk was actually only supposed to serve as a transit point. But now it has become a refuge for tens of thousands of people – for the unforeseeable future,” adds Monsignor Huber. missio project partners from the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) are helping the exhausted people in the refugee camps. “The people here are in great need,” says André Atsu Agbogan, JRS Director for East Africa. “The refugees urgently need food, new clothes and a roof over their heads.”

The fighting between the Sudanese army in Khartoum and the secessionist Rapid Support Force began in April 2023. According to the United Nations, more than nine million people have fled Sudan to date, both inside and outside the country. Hundreds of thousands have fled the country, most of them to Chad and South Sudan.

missio Munich has been supporting the work of the JRS in the border town of Renk since the beginning of the crisis in April 2023. JRS Director André Atsu Agbogan is urgently appealing for further help: “I appeal to the international community to put this crisis, which is receiving far too little attention, right at the top of the agenda. The need of the people is very, very great.”

missio’s JRS partners are caring for the most vulnerable people: pregnant women, men and women with physical or mental disabilities. They also include many wounded people who have been injured by landmines during the war. The JRS provides them with psychological support so that they can come to terms with their terrible experiences. Physiotherapy also helps people in this area, where there is hardly any medical care.


Sudan and South Sudan – 12 months of war with no end in sight

The Darfur region was already the scene of horrific fighting during the time of the longstanding Islamist ruler Bashir. The cavalry militia “Janjaweed” (translated: “mounted devils”) invaded villages and towns and drove thousands of people to flee. Former Janjaweed fighters are now apparently also the backbone of the “Rapid Support Force” (RSF), the rebel group that is in armed conflict with the regular Sudanese army. In April 2023, it was initially the capital Khartoum where this war began. It has since spread across large parts of the country. By the end of April 2024, one year after the violence began, more than 8 million people had been forced to flee, most of them initially within the country. Those who leave the country go to Chad, Egypt or South Sudan. Those who cannot flee in time find themselves in an almost hopeless situation.


With the “Forgotten Crises” campaign, missio Munich, together with more than 30 German aid organisations and the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, is focusing on crisis areas around the world that otherwise receive little attention.

Further information at: https://www.missio.com/aktuelles/vergessene-krisen

missio magazine editor Christian Selbherr travelled to Renk in South Sudan in the spring. You can read his report “Fled, stranded and endangered” in the current issue of missio magazine and here on the missio website: https://www.missio.com/aktuelles/nachrichten/reportagen/suedsudan-fluechtlinge

If you would like to support the refugees from Sudan: https://www.missio.com/helfen/suedsudan-gefluechtete

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