AN OVERVIEW OF THE CRISIS
• Life-threatening needs driven by the conflict are made worse by extreme poverty and some of the world’s lowest levels of development indicators.
• Needs are most acute in areas with active hostilities or large numbers of people displaced.
• Chronic needs such as severe food insecurity, high rates of malnutrition, vulnerability to disease outbreaks and exposure to gender-based violence are also present in other parts of the country.
The conflict that began in December 2013 in South Sudan continues to affect the lives of millions of people. It has been marked by brutal violence against civilians and deepening suffering across the country. Insecurity and active hostilities constrain civilians’ freedom of movement. The major humanitarian consequences are widespread displacement due to the violence; high rates of death, disease, and injuries, severe food insecurity and disrupted livelihoods, and a major malnutrition crisis.
Some 5.8 million people are estimated to be in some degree of food insecurity as of September 2014. This number is projected to increase to 6.4 million1 during the first quarter of 2015. These numbers are based on the Integrated Phase Classification analysis conducted by a technical working group that includes the Government of The Republic of South Sudan.
The people in need for the coming year include an anticipated 1.95 million internally displaced people2 and a projected 293,000 refugees.3 In addition, around 270,000 more people will likely have sought refuge in neighbouring countries by the end of 2015, including those who left in 2014.4 Within South Sudan most acute needs are found in the three states that have seen the most active hostilities: Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile.
The crisis has disrupted an already weak service delivery system, particularly in those three states most affected by conflict. Lakes State has witnessed persistent inter-communal fighting. Many of the 1,200 schools5 in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile are closed due to the conflict. Water supply in towns, including major hubs such as Bentiu and Malakal, is no longer functioning or accessible to civilians. An estimated 184 health facilities6 in the three conflict states have been either destroyed, are occupied, or are no longer functioning.
While political negotiations continue, and are needed to end the suffering, they are unlikely to yield rapid improvements on the ground. As of the writing of this document, the Cessation of Hostilities agreement in January, a recommitment to the Cessation in May, the intra-SPLM dialogue of 20 October, and the rededication to the January agreement on 9 November have yet to stop fighting on the ground. Even when fighting does stop, the humanitarian impact of what has already happened will continue to be felt throughout 2015 and beyond.
Despite seasonal food insecurity, South Sudanese communities are resilient and used to managing seasonal changes in food access and availability, and many people move in line with the seasons. However, after nearly a year of conflict many people are uprooted from their homes – or are hosting displaced people themselves – and are under severe stress in terms of food access and availability, access to markets and livelihoods, basic services, and social mechanisms that they would otherwise rely on. Moreover, oil production and revenue, the backbone of the formal South Sudanese economy, has been disrupted by the crisis.
South Sudan was already fragile before the current crisis, and other parts of the country continue to be affected by food insecurity, disease outbreaks, malnutrition and other threats to lives, livelihoods and well-being. Central and Eastern Equatoria states, for example, have been heavily affected by an unprecedented cholera outbreak. Women, young boys and girls and elderly men and women are particularly vulnerable, as are people who have had to flee their homes due to the conflict.
Many South Sudanese rely on livestock and agriculture for their livelihoods. Those who have been displaced from their homes have been less able to plant or care for their animals. Most of those whose income sources are unreliable or unsustainable are women.
Infrastructure is severely underdeveloped. About 60 per cent of roads7 are impassable in the rainy season, which lasts about 5-6 months. In addition, basic services such as health, social welfare, water and sanitation, nutrition, and education, have low coverage.
Further, explosive remnants of the conflict contaminate roads, towns, and agricultural areas.
An effective peace agreement and cessation of hostilities are an important first step to prevent the situation from deteriorating further. In times of peace, communities have well-established resilience mechanisms to cope with seasonal changes, such as maintaining different settlements for the dry and rainy seasons.
Though largely exhausted by the conflict, these coping mechanisms – supported by aid programmes – would help communities begin to recover if people were able to use them sustainably.
This could then provide a first step towards more durable solutions, including for people displaced by violence to return to their homes, rebuild their lives and care for their families. Rule of law and the justice system must be strengthened, including by addressing issues around loss of housing, land and property.
Yet, peace remains elusive and, as a consequence, suffering continues unabated.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.