Fighting between armed groups across parts of South Sudan continues to drive displacement, including in areas that had been relatively stable since the crisis broke out in December 2013. The dynamic nature of the conflict has resulted in the constant movement of civilians as they attempt to escape shifting locations of insecurity.
Current population movements are fluid in several areas, including Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, Unity, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Western Equatoria and Unity. In the past two months, over 80,000 people have been displaced in Wau and 12,000 in Juba alone.
In southern parts of Central Equatoria, which had previously remained fairly stable, an escalating number of security incidents has pushed large numbers of civilians to leave their homes to seek safety. The movements have been particularly significant from Yei, with multiple reports of targeted violence and harassment against civilians and disruptions in the delivery of aid supplies.
“At the same time as we see the needs continue to grow, access constraints are making it more difficult for humanitarians to access vulnerable people or even measure the scale of displacement and unfolding needs as violence spreads to new locations,” said John McCue, IOM South Sudan Head of Operations.
Many of the recent population movements from Central Equatoria have been across the southern borders to Uganda and Kenya, but increased insecurity in parts of Yei, Morobo and Magwi counties is making it increasingly dangerous for civilians to move and may be preventing people from reaching safer areas.
In Leer, Unity, insecurity has forced civilians to seek protection in nearby islands, while others have reportedly moved south or reached the UN protection of civilians site in Bentiu. These patterns of movement in central Unity may increase as insecurity persists.
On 4 September, IOM joined a UN Security Council delegation to witness first-hand the needs of displaced communities in Wau since heavy fighting in late June. While IOM and humanitarian agencies are providing lifesaving aid at displacement sites across Wau town, access constraints have limited efforts to reach thousands of displaced families in some areas south of town since early July.
IOM recently regained access to Ngisa in southern Wau to deliver essential medicines and evaluate health and water needs. IOM has received reports of people returning to parts of Wau town, which may be a response to improved security in the area or a result of limited access to relief services in areas outside of the town.
More than 1.6 million people are internally displaced across South Sudan, in addition to 786,000 people who have fled to neighbouring countries since December 2013. More than half of the country (6.1 million people) are in need of relief aid.