Analysis of the context, crisis and needs
As the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan enters its eighth year, approximately two thirds of the population need some form of humanitarian assistance. Years of conflict, subnational violence, food insecurity, severe flooding and now the COVID-19 pandemic have led to increased vulnerabilities among the population.
More than 1,500 people were killed and over 157,000 displaced because of subnational violence during the first half of 2020. Women and children have been abducted, and more than 6,000 GBV incidents were recorded between January and September 2020.
Food insecurity persisted for communities across the country. At least 6.5 million people were acutely food insecure during the 2020 lean season. Households were negatively impacted by COVID-19, and the economic shocks linked to the depreciation of the South Sudanese pound, which resulted in drastic increases in food prices. Between August and mid-September 2020, the cost of a food basket increased by 42 per cent. An estimated 1.3 million children and 350,000 women were acutely malnourished in 2020.
Repeated displacements triggered by violence and flooding in 2020 occurred in locations already experiencing multiple crises, such as Jonglei State and Greater Pibor Administrative Area. Flooding has affected an estimated 800,000 people across almost half of South Sudan’s counties and temporarily displaced nearly 400,000 people.
The country continues to struggle with disease outbreaks due to low immunization coverage, a weak health system and poor hygiene and sanitation. Illnesses such as malaria and waterborne infections continue to impact people. The COVID-19 outbreak increased pressure on the limited health services and disrupted learning. More than 2.2 million children are out of school, with girls disproportionately affected.
People have an increased vulnerability to waterborne diseases, given the vast geographic areas impacted by floods, with an elongated rainy season. Access to health-care services will remain a challenge for many people, with 44 per cent of the population living within 5 km of a health facility.
Some 1.6 million people are internally displaced. The majority (75 per cent) live in host communities, with the remaining 25 per cent in camp-like settings, including Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites and IDP camps. More than 2.2 million South Sudanese refugees are seeking refuge in the region, with the main outflow in 2020 attributed to insecurity, flooding and food shortages in potential return areas. Some 1 million IDPs and 285,000 refugees have spontaneously returned, and many remain vulnerable due to a lack of access to services, shelter and protection.
Humanitarian access deteriorated in 2020, with repeated acts of violence against humanitarian workers and humanitarian assets. Between January and September 2020, approximately 450 violent incidents against humanitarian personnel and assets were reported. Nine humanitarian workers were killed while delivering life-saving humanitarian assistance between January and October 2020.
Despite these challenges, 5.6 million people received food assistance and livelihoods support, and 1.1 million children and new mothers received nutrition services. More than 3.6 million health consultations were conducted in 2020.
Projected situation in 2021 and beyond
Conflict, economic crisis, flooding and disease outbreaks will remain key drivers of humanitarian needs in South Sudan. Limited progress in the peace agreement and political and security tensions are expected to continue in 2021. Anticipated subnational violence will cause more displacement and increase humanitarian needs. Protection issues, including GBV, remain a concern. It is expected that the IDPs will remain in the newly transitioned IDP camps (formerly PoC sites) and host communities because of a lack of basic services in their areas of origin.
Food insecurity is anticipated to deteriorate in 2021 compared to 2020, driven by insecurity, COVID-19 impacts, floods, continued economic crisis, and sharp increases in food prices. The number of South Sudanese people who will need food assistance at the peak of the lean season in 2021 is estimated to increase substantially, pending IPC findings. The highest levels of food security are concentrated in areas affected by recurring shocks, such as violence and floods, including in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity, Lakes and Warrap states. Limited availability of and access to basic WASH services and poor vaccination coverage are likely to cause disease outbreaks as COVID-19 continues to put additional pressure on an overstretched health system. Humanitarian organizations will face increasing access constraints, including bureaucratic impediments affecting their ability to effectively respond to people’s needs.
Response priorities in 2021
In 2021, the humanitarian response will be guided by three overall strategic objectives: i) to reduce morbidity and mortality among vulnerable populations; ii) to facilitate access to cross-sectoral basic services; iii) to enable populations to cope with repeated shocks and find solutions to displacements. Centrality of Protection will be at the core of the response, including the prevention of and response to GBV.
As the humanitarian crisis continues, resources are falling short of what is required to adequately respond to increasing needs. Funding levels for the 2020 appeal are low compared to the same period last year. As of 24 November, the HRP and its COVID-19 addendum requesting $1.9 billion were 51 per cent funded. Responding to people’s needs while mitigating and preventing the onward transmission of COVID-19 will increase the cost of care. The multiple drivers of needs that compound each other will require more resources to support an agile and timely response.
- Human Rights Division, United Nations Mission in South Sudan, Quarterly Brief on Violence Affecting Civilians, April–June 2020
- Figures for People in need, People targeted and Requirements are pending the finalization of the 2021 HNO and HRP.