South Sudan

Accountability to Affected Populations - Community perceptions of humanitarian assistance in South Sudan, February 2020



Eight years after independence, South Sudan is in the midst of a complex and protracted humanitarian crisis, one induced primarily by conflict and exacerbated by economic instability, natural disaster, and largescale displacement.In 2020, an estimated 7.5million people are in need of assistance,2 affirming the continued presence of a largescale humanitarian response and the necessity of further interventions in affected communities across the country. Since the outbreak of civil war in December 2013, no part of South Sudan has been spared from what has become a protracted humanitarian crisis. Humanitarian efforts have included every sector and the nature of the response is steadily evolving to prioritizing durable solutions for affected populations.

Despite the fact that humanitarian agencies have been operating in South Sudan for over thirty years, there has been an absence in understanding how the aid community and the assistance it provides are perceived by affected populations. The lack of nuanced information on community perceptions regarding humanitarian assistance is a global issue and a key driver for the strengthening of Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP) initiatives across the humanitarian response. This failure to capture the attitudes, experiences, perceptions, and opinions of the South Sudanese population in relation to aid poses a collective ethical challenge to the humanitarian community as a whole.
Beginning in mid-2019, REACH collaborated with several humanitarian partners3 in South Sudan to develop a research project aimed at addressing this information gap. Funded by the UK Department of International Development (DFID), Accountability to Affected Populations: Community Perceptions of Humanitarian Assistance in South Sudan provides a snapshot overview of community perceptions across the country. The research encompasses community perceptions related to four core AAP themes:

  1. Awareness of humanitarian service delivery;

  2. Relevance of humanitarian interventions;

  3. Fairness of the humanitarian response;

  4. Respect of affected populations by humanitarian service providers as perceived by the community.

The study adopted a mixed-methods approach, integrating quantitative and qualitative data to allow for a more complete picture of community perceptions. Quantitative data was collected in August 2019 through REACH’s key informant based, Area of Knowledge (AoK) multi-sectoral remote-monitoring survey tool and gathered at the settlement level across all ten former states of South Sudan. 4 2,534 key informants were assessed in 1,954 settlements (for an explanation of AoK methodology please refer to Section 3 “Methodology,” page 11). Qualitative data was collected through 17 focus group discussions (FGDs), five semi-structured in-depth individual interviews (IIs) with community members, and 21 semi-structured key informant interviews (KIIs) with local authorities and humanitarian workers between July and September 2019. Qualitative data was collected in Northern Bahr el Ghazal (NBeG), Western Bahr el Ghazal (WBeG), Jonglei, Lakes, and Western Equatoria states.

The findings are indicative of broad perceptions of humanitarian assistance and are not statistically generalisable. Quantitative results are expressed as a proportion of assessed settlements indicating a particular response to a given question, which are further contextualised by the qualitative findings and secondary data sources.

Fundamentally, this report seeks to support humanitarian actors with a comprehensive understanding of community perceptions towards the humanitarian response. This information is designed to serve as a benchmark so that implementers of humanitarian assistance can draw from the findings to strengthen programming based on a wide range of direct community perspectives and perceptions.