South Sudan

South Sudan: Humanitarian Access Severity Overview (July - September 2019)

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A humanitarian access survey was conducted with partners between July and September 2019, to determine levels of perceived access in South Sudan. The process enabled partners to jointly assess perceptions of constraints on access, and rank all areas according to presence of various impediments and resulting levels of access over the last three months. The results will enable development of local access strategies to address the most common or challenging impediments, inform higher-level advocacy, and guide operational planning to support targeted response to people in areas with more severe access constraints. The below map captures severity of constraints on access by county, as perceived by humanitarian organizations.


Structured focus group discussions were conducted with humanitarian organizations across the country to assess their degree of access in all 78 counties of South Sudan. Separate discussions were held with UN agencies, international NGOs and national NGOs in consideration of differing levels of actual or perceived access. The findings were averaged and applied to a three-point severity scale, ranging from ‘accessible’ to ‘high access constraints’, to indicate the overall severity of the access constraints of the counties.

Following the signing of the revitalized peace agreement in September 2018, humanitarian access continued to see improvements in the July-September 2019 period. Out of the over 7 million people in need of assistance, approximately 100,000 people lived in counties with high access constraints, including nearly 65,000 targeted for life-saving assistance. During the reporting period, 44 counties were classified as facing low level access constraints. This illustrates a significant access improvement compared to the same period in 2018, when only 22 counties were in the same category. Similarly, a total of 31 counties were categorized as locations with medium level access constraints between July and September 2019, compared to 37 counties at the same time in 2018. The constraints were due to bureaucratic impediments, operational interference, and violence against humanitarian personnel and assets. Three counties experienced severe access constraints: Maiwut and Panyikang in Upper Nile, and Mundri East in Western Equatoria. These constraints involved active hostilities, constant violence against humanitarian personnel and assets, and the physical environment. The same period in 2018 saw 19 counties classified as areas with high level access constraints.

Difficult physical environment, including poor road conditions, was the most prevalent access challenge reported by partners during the reporting period. This was compounded by unprecedented heavy rains and floods since July 2019, significantly limiting humanitarians’ ability to reach people in need. The interruption of humanitarian operations and access was further exacerbated by checkpoint difficulties, including demands to search personnel and vehicles. Active hostilities, military operations and inter-communal conflict led to the disruption of aid delivery, particularly in Jonglei, Lakes, Unity and Upper Nile. Growing insecurity in the Greater Equatorias significantly reduced humanitarian space and safe access for partners, including safe road movement.

Common constraints across the United Nations and international and South Sudanese non-governmental organizations (NGOs) included operational interference, restrictions of movement, and bureaucratic or administrative impediments. The presence of mines and explosive remnants of war, and a difficult physical environment, also affected humanitarians indifferent of organization type. Operational interference affected INGO operations more than any other organization type, while NNGOs also faced significant challenges in relation to operational interference. Ongoing hostilities reportedly affected INGO operations more than any other organization type. UN agencies reported fewer constraints involving violence against assets and personnel compared to NGOs, which may be a result of stricter security protocols and/or more frequent use of force protection in high-risk areas. In many categories, national NGOs reported fewer constraints and less impact on operations of ongoing hostilities. This may indicate a higher risk tolerance of NNGOs and a willingness or ability to operate in difficult locations in order to stay and deliver.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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