Gunfire and shelling, in Juba, on 15 December 2013, signalled the beginning of a conflict that quickly spread to other parts of South Sudan, including Bor, Bentiu and Malakal.
The violence was sparked by a power struggle between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his ex-deputy, Riek Machar, and continued for months into early 2014, generating civilian displacement on a huge scale.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) estimated that 575,500 people were internally displaced and 112,200 civilians fled to neighbouring countries, prompting ACT to provide emergency assistance in Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda (see information opposite).
It is thought that more than 450,000 people from South Sudan have sought refuge in those countries.
ACT response in South Sudan
Various ACT members and partners conducted assessments with other NGOs and UN agencies to map the most affected areas and assess the most urgent needs throughout South Sudan.
ACT responded with food, temporary shelters, blankets, mosquito nets and other non-food items such as medicines. The emergency response prioritised the most vulnerable, including female-headed households, pregnant and poor women, children (particularly girls between 6 and 17 years old) and disabled people. Child protection was a key focus in several areas.
ACT also assisted in improving the water supply for refugee camps and provided latrines. Most of those internally displaced had experienced serious trauma, so ACT offered both one-to-one and group psychosocial work.
ACT response in Kenya
The emergency response in Kenya focused on the Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana County, providing new arrivals with shelter, water, protection and psychosocial support.
At a transit centre set up in Nadapal, just north of the Turkana district, ACT members assisted in providing new arrivals with accommodation, hot meals, water, sanitation and hygiene facilities and basic non-food items, such as sleeping mats and soap as they waited to be moved on to the Kakuma refugee camp.
ACT response in Ethiopia
Ethiopia witnessed the biggest surge in refugee arrivals, making it the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa with a combined total of 635,950 refugees, according to UNHCR.
By October 2014, more than 190,000 refugees from South Sudan had arrived in the country. ACT’s reponse, run by three members, was targeted at Leitchuor refugee camp (with nearly 50,000 being accommodated there), Lule refugee camp, Tierkidi refugee camp and a number of other woredas (districts).
The priority needs were water and sanitation, livelihoods, psychosocial support, education and vocational training. Leitchuor, with little capacity in terms of water, shelter and other basic services, was declared unsuitable to continue housing refugees because of flooding, in August 2014, which caused extensive damage to infrastructure. The poor sanitary conditions posed a major risk to public health.
ACT members were working in the camp until it closed in September, when refugees were relocated to higher ground.
ACT response in Uganda
More than 123,000 refugees from South Sudan arrived in Uganda in 2014. In response, ACT worked in the clustered settlement sites around Adjumani in northern Uganda to provide improved water, sanitation and hygiene access for 22,500 refugees.
Support was also given to 42,000 refugees and 4,000 host community members to help build relationships and provide protection and psychosocial support.