Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2017, 17:20 GMT

Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - South Sudan

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 19 April 2012
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - South Sudan, 19 April 2012, available at: [accessed 23 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Quick facts
Number of IDPsUndetermined
Percentage of total populationUndetermined
Start of current displacement situation1983
Peak number of IDPs (Year)4,000,000 (2004)
New displacement350,000
Causes of displacementArmed conflict, generalised violence, human rights violations
Human development index

On 9 July 2011, after more than 50 years of civil war, the Republic of South Sudan declared independence from Sudan. Until that point, Sudan had been the largest country in Africa and also the country with the largest number of IDPs in the world – between 4.5 and 5.2 million people at the end of 2010. While new figures for both countries were estimated by the UN at the end of the year, large information gaps remained.

The UN estimated that 350,000 people were newly displaced in South Sudan in 2011. Hundreds of thousands were displaced by fighting between the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and new South Sudanese militia groups in Unity and Upper Nile, inter-tribal violence in Jonglei, Lakes, Unity and Warrap, and attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Western Bahr el-Ghazal and Western Equatoria.

This figure also included 110,000 people displaced by fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the SPLA in Abyei in May. Abyei is a contested area between Sudan and South Sudan, and people displaced from Abyei sought refuge in South Sudan. After the fighting, the UN Security Council established the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) to monitor the border and protect civilians and humanitarian workers. In December 2011, the Security Council extended the mandate of UNISFA until the end of May 2012. The governments of Sudan and South Sudan had yet to facilitate returns by withdrawing their respective forces from the area, which was a precondition for the withdrawal of UNISFA.

At the end of the year, the UN estimated that 360,000 southerners had returned to South Sudan from the north since October 2010. However, they returned to locations near border areas with virtually no social services or economic opportunities to support their reintegration.

The UN also estimated that there were 700,000 southerners remaining in Khartoum who had been internally displaced there before the secession of South Sudan and whose citizenship status had yet to be resolved. Their protection needs should also be addressed as they have lost Sudanese citizenship with the new nationality law, but may not have access to documents confirming their South Sudan citizenship. It is unclear if they have any options for durable solutions. Following the end of government-funded support for returns, thousands of others who were also displaced in Khartoum before the independence of South Sudan were stranded at departure points or in transit stations waiting to return to South Sudan. The long waiting periods and lack of services in these places remained of concern to the humanitarian community.

Both Sudan and South Sudan faced enormous challenges during the latter's first months of statehood, including: the escalation of violence and conflict along their border; disagreements over its demarcation and over the water and grazing rights of nomadic groups who move through border areas; and unresolved disputes over the sharing of oil revenues, as oil fields are mostly in the south but the infrastructure to export oil is in the north. The inter-tribal conflicts were driven, and further displacement threatened, by widespread food insecurity. As the government worked to build new state institutions, South Sudan was one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world at the end of 2011. More than half of its population of 8.3 million people were living on less than $1 per day, and the country lacked social services and transport infrastructure.

The international response to the multiple emergencies was limited by the insecurity. Many displacement-affected areas in South Sudan remained difficult to access, preventing vulnerable groups from obtaining urgently needed assistance and making the delivery of assistance extremely expensive. Responding to the emergency needs of returnees also remained a priority for the international community.

As well as UNISFA in Abyei, the UN Security Council also established the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) on the day of independence, to consolidate peace and security and help establish conditions for the new government to govern effectively and democratically.

The 2011 CAP appeal for humanitarian funds for South Sudan was launched shortly after the declaration of independence. By December, 56 per cent of the $620 million requested had been met. While the food security and emergency shelter sectors were funded at 85 and 77 per cent, other sectors remained seriously under-funded, including health, water and sanitation (both at 53 per cent) and protection at only 20 per cent. The UN's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocated almost $23 million to assist people displaced by violence in Abyei and along the border with Sudan, and IDPs returning home after independence.

Search Refworld