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South Sudan and CAR: People on the Run in their Own Lands

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 4 2014 (IPS) - South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) have become the sites of some of the worst refugee and internally displaced person (IDP) situations Africa has ever seen, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said Tuesday.

Some 1.8 million people were forcibly displaced due to the crises in both countries. Of these, 196,000 Sudanese fled to neighbouring countries, while 740,000 remain displaced inside Sudan.

Similarly, in the CAR, 290,000 people have sought shelter in other countries whereas over 700,000 people are internally displaced.

According to the UNHCR, IDPs are among the world’s most vulnerable people. This is in part due to the fact that, unlike refugees, IDPs have not crossed an international border to find sanctuary, but have remained inside their home countries.

“Even if they have fled for similar reasons as refugees (armed conflict, generalised violence, human rights violations), IDPs legally remain under the protection of their own government – even though that government might be the cause of their flight,” UNHCR noted in a statement released here.

Moreover, meeting even basic needs such as clean water is a constant struggle for many of these people. The UNHCR estimates that more than half of CAR’s 4.6 million people are currently in need of humanitarian aid.

Food security has also become a major challenge.

“Many children under the age of five are showing varying degrees of malnourishment, also related to lack of food in CAR. Over the weekend, 15 malnourished children died before they could be saved,” UNHCR Spokesperson Melissa Fleming said Tuesday in Geneva.

A 2013 report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) states that, as of last year, almost 44 million people had been forcibly displaced worldwide. Of these, 27.5 million were IDPs, 15.4 million were refugees, and 800,000 were asylum-seekers hoping to achieve refugee status.

By the end of 2012, the region with the highest number of IDPs was sub-Saharan Africa, while the country counting the largest population of IDPs was Colombia — with anywhere from 4.9 to 5.5 million – followed closely by Syria, with three million displaced.

Current funding for the twin emergencies in the CAR and South Sudan remains insufficient, according to the UNHCR. While the U.N. is seeking 551 million dollars for 2014 humanitarian efforts in CAR, only 112 million dollars have been allocated to refugees and IDPs in the country, of which just nine percent has been received so far.

For South Sudan, the global refugee agency requested 55 million dollars from the U.N. to meet the needs of displaced people, but only 12.4 million dollars of the pledged total have actually entered the country.

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