Humanitarian access remains highly restricted in Greater Equatoria and southern areas of Unity, affecting the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance. There has been an escalation of violence in the last two weeks and heavy fighting has been recorded in the Greater Equatoria region and Upper Nile state, severely affecting civilians.
The food insecurity situation in the country is at critical levels. A recent assessment mission to Mayendit, southern Unity found that families are mainly surviving on water lilies, lalok and palm tree seeds. UNICEF continues to implement a nutrition scale-up plan in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) to respond to the situation.
Seasonal dry weather is having a negative impact on water availability. In parts of Eastern Equatoria, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity and Jonglei, water resources are now severely strained, aggravating the already fragile food security situation in the country.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
The humanitarian space in South Sudan continues to shrink, with humanitarian actors facing severe access restrictions in several areas, notably in Greater Equatoria and Unity. There has been an escalation of violence in the last two weeks and heavy fighting has been recorded in the Greater Equatoria region and Upper Nile state. Clashes are expected to continue through the dry season as accessibility of roads allows for easy movement of armed forces and groups.
In Greater Equatoria, the security situation continues to restrict humanitarian access, particularly in areas surrounding the towns of Yambio in Western Equatoria, Yei in Central Equatoria and Torit in Eastern Equatoria. Tens of thousands of displaced persons are seeking shelter in the towns, with many more hiding in bushes and swamps in remote areas. Since July 2016, more than 250,000 people are believed to have been displaced in the Greater Equatoria region. In the past two weeks there has also been an increase the number of people fleeing across the border to neighbouring countries, mainly Uganda and Kenya.
There have been two criminal ambushes against civilian vehicles in Bentiu, Unity state in last three days, raising concerns about the safety of humanitarian convoys that take advantage of the dry season to preposition stocks in remote regions. The continued deterioration of the security situation is likely to further impede access across the country and affect the delivery of lifesaving humanitarian assistance.
The nutrition situation in the country remains critical, and food insecurity is expected to worsen in coming months. Results from the December 2016 Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System (FSNMS) report recorded the highest rates of global acute malnutrition (GAM) in Northern Bahr el Ghazal (14.2%), Warrap (13.9%) and Upper Nile (13.6%). However, recent screening data from southern Unity indicates GAM rates in the area ranging between 25% and 42%. The FSNMS also shows increasing levels of malnutrition in all three Equatoria states compared to the same period in previous years. Contributing factors to the ongoing nutrition crisis includes limited food availability due to reduced planting and harvesting, insecurity, the economic crisis and limited humanitarian access. In Juba, the price of staple commodities such as sorghum and maize has increased by 40 per cent and 61 per cent, respectively, in just the past month, and the overall cost of living has more than tripled in the past year. The high cost of living combined with high levels of inflation means many families are exhausting their coping mechanisms. A report from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network released on 25 January gives a very bleak outlook for South Sudan in 2017, with some areas at risk of reaching levels of food insecurity associated with famine.
As a result of seasonal dry weather, low water tables have heightened competing demands for water among humans and animals, and the scarce water sources available are being over-used. In Eastern Equatoria the regional drought is causing additional strain; populations have started moving in search of water and pasture for animals, and pastoralist communities are crossing the border into Kenya and Uganda.
In Wau, the measles outbreak is showing signs of decline. In the week of 16 to 22 January only 16 cases were reported, compared to 53 cases in the first week of the year. Active transmission of cholera is still ongoing in Bentiu, Leer and Panyijar in Unity as well as in the Juba Protection of Civilians (PoC) site, but the number of cholera cases reported is also declining.