Headcounts Show Reduction in Number of People Sheltering in Two of South Sudan’s Largest Displacement Sites
Juba – Reports released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in South Sudan show a decline in the number of people in two of the country’s largest displacement hubs: Wau and Bentiu displacement sites.
Recent headcounts indicate that 114,330 people are residing in Bentiu UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Protection of Civilians (PoC) site, while 25,968 people are living in the PoC and collective centres in Wau. These numbers are down from the official biometric registration figures – 161,071 for Bentiu and 36,832 for Wau – counted in the last comprehensive verification exercises in 2016 and 2017 respectively, which have since only been updated to include small numbers of new arrivals and newborns. It is difficult to account for those, who have left the sites, on the biometric register without carrying out a full verification exercise, as people do not usually alert camp management when they leave permanently.
Multiple escalations in the conflict in South Sudan since its outbreak in 2013 have caused more than 4 million people to flee their homes. Over half of the displaced fled into neighbouring countries, namely, Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.
However, nearly 1.9 million people are estimated to be displaced within South Sudan’s borders. Most (nearly 90 per cent) live within host communities, rather than displacement sites. Others live in small displacement sites known in the South Sudanese context as collective centres. The remaining group of the displaced population live on or adjacent to UNMISS bases where they sought protection during the conflict. The PoC sites, which are unique to South Sudan, are located in Bor, Bentiu, Juba, Malakal and Wau.
IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) collects key data on displacement and migration in South Sudan to inform the humanitarian community’s interventions. In displacement sites, they conduct biometric registration and headcounts to gauge population size. Biometric registration involves scanning/recording a person’s thumb prints and recording relevant personal details.
Although it is an effective means of measuring the size of a displacement site, it is also a massive endeavour, which cannot be done frequently, as it requires sealing off the displacement site for multiple days. Recognizing that there can be significant population changes between biometric registrations, IOM’s displacement tracking team conducts monthly headcounts in Bentiu and Wau PoC sites to monitor changing dynamics and displacement trends.
In Bentiu, the most recent headcount shows that children under the age of five constitute over one third of the PoC site population. Overall, half of the population are men and half are women. The 2018 Bentiu PoC Headcount Trends Report can be access here.
In the Wau PoC site, there was a steady decline in population size throughout 2018, as indicated by headcounts down from just over 25,000 in January 2018 to 15,272 people by the end of the year. At the same time, the collective sites in Wau, namely Cathedral, Nazareth, St. Joseph, Lokoloko and Masna collective centres, saw some fluctuations, with influxes of newly displaced people at times.
For example, June of last year saw violent clashes take place between armed groups in areas south of Wau, including Baggari County and Jur River. As the fighting spread, more and more people were forced to flee their homes in search of safety closer to Wau town and some 760 newly displaced people arrived in Masna collective centre.
This information can also be complemented by an intention survey recently conducted by DTM in Wau, which shows that 40 per cent of the displaced people interviewed intend to leave the PoC, half of them in the first quarter of the year. The 2018 Wau PoC and Collective Centre Headcount Trends Report can be accessed here.
In September 2018, the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and key opposition forces signed a peace agreement. In the months since then, many areas throughout the country are becoming more stable though some displacement has continued due to localized conflict.
Although DTM data is, so far, only reflecting cautious upward trends in potential return movements since the signing of the peace agreement, the humanitarian community is preparing for a scenario of increased returns during the year should stability continue to increase.
“Data, such as population sizes in the PoCs, is vital to our operations,” said Jean-Philippe Chauzy, IOM South Sudan Chief of Mission. “It shows us what is required to meet people’s needs and where the displaced are when outside of the displacement sites.”
“Furthermore, having people return to their areas of origin does not mean an end to humanitarian requirements in South Sudan. In fact, those are still vast and will continue to be as millions still lack access to essential health care, safe shelters and clean water, among other essential facilities. I trust international donors will continue to support the people of South Sudan and enable us to further the provision of lifesaving assistance as the country moves towards sustained peace,” said Chauzy.
IOM champions an integrated, multi-sector approach where migration management and recovery and stabilization efforts complement humanitarian interventions in health, mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), camp, coordination and camp management (CCCM), shelter and non-food items (S-NFI) and logistics. The Organization’s aim in South Sudan is to build community resilience and reduce dependency on humanitarian aid. This work is all under pinned by data collected through DTM.
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