It is estimated that more than 8 million people are living in South Sudan, the newest but also one of the poorest states in Africa. Years of conflict and underdevelopment, coupled with seasonal flooding, frequent dry spells, and frequent disease outbreaks result with South Sudan remaining a serious concern for the humanitarian community. The country is characterised by a lack of infrastructure and basic services such as safe water sources, sanitation facilities, health services or roads; a weakened economy, low literacy rate; and a profoundly poor population.
These structural problems have humanitarian consequences.
Malnutrition levels are beyond emergency thresholds; one out of every seven children dies before reaching the age of five; one out of six women who become pregnant dies; more than 20 percent of the population is undernourished; and deadly epidemic outbreaks are frequent and spread easily. In addition to this, food insecurity is a real threat to over a million people each year.
In such a fragile context any additional shock can have serious humanitarian implications. On top of the environmental hazards, South Sudan is prone to violent conflicts. Inter-tribal conflict has resulted in over 150,000 displaced people, hundreds of deaths, and abductions in 2011.
The humanitarian situation remains grim and unpredictable, especially in the northern states bordering the Republic of Sudan. Fighting in the Transitional Areas has increased the number of people seeking refuge in South Sudan. As of October 2011, around 100,000 displaced people from Abyei were in South Sudan waiting to return to their homes. Conflicts in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states have resulted in displacements of approximately 90,000 people into South Sudan.
Since the conclusion of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, about 2.5 million people displaced during the war have returned to settle in South Sudan. Between November 2010 and December 2011, over 350,000 people returned from the North of Sudan with about 30 percent settling in urban centres. Most are not used to the hardships they encounter in their new home and a majority possess urban livelihood skills which are not useful in South Sudan. Many returnees are yet to be fully integrated due to a lack of basic services and infrastructure.
The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection Department is supporting various life saving programmes in South Sudan. The main priorities include emergency preparedness and response, and provision of basic services to the vulnerable populations living in areas particularly prone to shocks. The Commission also supports programmes that assist the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and returnees; mainly provision of health services, water and sanitation, and food assistance. The Commission is aiming at increasing food security while also supporting common services, such as humanitarian air transport, security assessments, and coordination.