On 27th January, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, travelled to South Sudan to visit four Quick Impact Projects (QIP) in Yambio, which were achieved through the collaboration of UNHCR, JRS, and the South Sudanese government.
QIPs are aimed at improving the living conditions of those in need of humanitarian aid, like refugees and IDPs living in South Sudan, which is home to Africa’s largest refugee and humanitarian crisis. The JRS and UNHCR partnership provided 55 semi-permanent housing (tukul) to returning IDPs with special needs in the Nzara and Yambio counties, a community centre in Bazunga, and the renovation of the Sue and Uze bridges.
The building and renovation projects have provided much needed shelter, a safe place for refugee communities to socialize, and bridges that will allow the transport of medical supplies, allow traders to transport their goods to local markets, and make it possible for refugee children to attend school.
“I have a large family which includes my mother and six younger siblings,” said Sunday Borote, a person with a disability and a beneficiary of the semi-permanent housing. “All of us were sharing a single room, and it was very difficult for us to enlarge or even renovate our tukul every year with grass, because things are very expensive in the market.”
“Pope Francis’s invitation to promote encounter and build bridges has been ringing in my ears, and we have literally accomplished the latter,” Noelle Fitzpatrick, JRS South Sudan Country Director, said.
She went on to state that “UNHCR’s support of JRS projects in South Sudan has allowed us to reimagine our collaborative relationship and to forge ahead as partners, especially during the pandemic that has adversely affected forcibly displaced people and IDPs.”
“As a faith-based organisation, our central tenant is hope. We must help others to see refugee settlements as places of opportunity rather than desperation,” she said.
Implementing quality education initiatives and assisting returning refugees and IDPs as they settle into urban areas, are currently two primary challenges that both organisations are working to meet. Most South Sudanese originally come from rural areas where there is great potential but lack of services such as healthcare and education. “As many migrate to more urbanized areas, there is the potential for conflict over resources,” she said.
Fillipo Grandi’s partnership with JRS actually began in 1987, when the former director of JRS Asia Pacific, Mark Raper SJ, invited him to volunteer for a project in Aranyaprathet, in eastern Thailand, where hundreds of thousands of Cambodian refugees were living in camps along the border.
“I have seen the great work that JRS and its partners do, in responding to basic needs,” he said.
Fitzpatrick confirmed that JRS and UNHCR will continue to work in tandem throughout 2021, to monitor and accompany forcibly displaced people in South Sudan. They will work together to provide both humanitarian assistance and hope to refugees and returning IDPs.