Following the outbreak of violence in Juba in July 2016, the conflict in South Sudan expanded to previously peaceful areas, including the Greater Equatoria region (Central, Eastern, and Western Equatoria states). Many areas in the Greater Equatoria region are largely inaccessible to humanitarian actors due to insecurity. As a result, only limited information is available on the humanitarian situation outside of a few large towns and displacement sites.
In order to fill these information gaps and facilitate humanitarian programming, REACH began collecting monthly data on hard-toreach areas in the Greater Equatoria region fro January 2017 through interviews with Key Informants (KIs). Between January and March 2018, data was collected through phone call interviews with KIs residing across the Greater Equatoria region and who had direct knowledge of the situation in a hard-to-reach settlement.
From January to March 2018, REACH interviewed 900 KIs that had knowledge about 400 different settlements: 214 settlements in all six counties of Central Equatoria State, 71 settlements in five out of eight counties of Eastern Equatoria State and 115 settlements in six out of ten counties of Western Equatoria State (Map 2). Findings were triangulated with 4 Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) conducted in Kapoeta Town with internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Budi County, and secondary data, including other assessments conducted by REACH in the Greater Equatoria region over the reporting period. Primary data collection was complemented by consultations with humanitarian partners based in Yambio and Kapoeta towns.
This Situation Overview provides a summary of displacement trends in addition to access to food and basic services for both IDPs and host communities across the Greater Equatoria region from January to March 2018. The following analysis will summarize trends for the Greater Equatoria region as well as analyse the three states separately.
Population Movement and Displacement
Following episodes of heavy armed clashes and large scale displacement at the end of 2017, lower intensity fighting continued to take place in the first quarter of 2018. While security deteriorated in areas previously quiet such as Kapoeta South County, other areas were more quiet than through most of 2017, including the western portion of Western Equatoria. The main towns of the Greater Equatoria region were largely quiet, but armed clashes continued to displace populations in rural areas of southern Central Equatoria State (Morobo, Yei, Lainya and Kajo-Keji Counties), in Mundri East County (Western Equatoria State) and in Kapoeta South County (Eastern Equatoria State).
Due to the combination of relative safety around main towns and the beginning of the cultivation season in the Greenbelt area of South Sudan, some of those displaced by conflict which began in July 2016 started returning from their displacement areas outside and within South Sudan, mostly to settle in population centres perceived to be secure and to look for income generating activities. This has lead to a trend of urban displacement by IDPs returning from foreign or remote displacment sites and settling in major towns, including Kapoeta, Torit, Juba, Yei, and Yambio. Whether these movements qualify as permanent returns is still unclear. A more detailed discussion will follow in the “Central Equatoria State” sub-section.
In addition to this broader trend of movements of people previously displaced in Uganda or in the bush toward population centres, smaller numbers of people have also returned to their rural settlement of origin. Over the period, REACH KIs reported returns from Uganda refugee settlements in most border areas such as Magwi, Torit, Ikotos, Kajo-Keji and Lainya County. In March, 80% of assessed settlements reported that members of the local community had returned to the settlement following prior displacement. Among those, 34% reported that returns had a large impact on the population’s ability to access enough food in the settlement, including 100% of assessed settlements in Lainya County.
50% of assessed settlements reported IDP presence in March 2018, suggesting that many areas remain off limits and that protracted displacement remains the rule in a large portion of the Greater Equatoria region.