Jesuits, UNHCR Partner to Improve Living Conditions of Deprived Populations in South Sudan

JRS Programme Manager Felix Omollo (R) with UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi visiting a JRS project in Yambio, South Sudan.

The leadership of the international refugee organization of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has partnered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to improve the living conditions of deprived populations in South Sudan.

In a Thursday, February 4 report obtained by ACI Africa, the leadership of JRS says it has partnered with the UNHCR in realizing four Quick Impact Projects (QIP) in various areas under South Sudan’s Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio.

“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,” officials of JRS say in the report.

With the support of the South Sudanese government, the leaders of the two entities say they have so far provided “55 semi-permanent housing (tukul) to returning IDPs with special needs in the Nzara and Yambio counties, a community center in Bazunga, and the renovation of the Sue and Uze bridges.”

According to the leadership of the 40-year-old Jesuit agency, “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.”


Among the beneficiaries of the semi-permanent housing by JRS and UNHCR is Sunday Borote, a person living with disability and whose family includes a mother and six siblings.

“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,” Borote has been quoted as saying in the February 4 report.

The ability of changing the living conditions of people like Borote is a fulfillment of “Pope Francis’ invitation to promote encounters and build bridges,” JRS South Sudan Country Director, Noelle Fitzpatrick says, adding that the call has been ringing in her ears for some time.

“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,” Ms. Fitzpatrick has been quoted as saying in the report.

The Juba-based JRS official adds, “As a faith-based organization, our central tenant is hope. We must help others to see refugee settlements as places of opportunity rather than desperation.”

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On his January 27 visit to South Sudan to assess the QIPs, the Commissioner of the UNHCR, Filippo Grandi, acknowledged with appreciation the work of JRS among the deprived populations in the East-Central African nation saying, “I have seen the great work that JRS and its partners do, in responding to basic needs.”

Having realized the QIPs, the two organizations are now shifting their attention to meeting “two primary challenges,” which include implementing quality education initiatives and assisting returning refugees and IDPs as they settle into urban areas.

With more South Sudanese migrating to more urbanized areas, “there is the potential for conflict over resources,” Ms. Fitzpatrick has observed.

In the February 4 report, the JRS Country Director in South Sudan confirms that the agency will continue partnering with UNHCR in accompanying “forcibly displaced people” in the nine-year-old country.

Founded in November 1980 by Jesuit Fr. Andrew Arrupe, the mission of JRS is “to accompany, serve, and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, that they may heal, learn, and determine their own future.”


This story was adapted from the February 4 report by JRS Eastern Africa.