Escalated conflict and security restrictions have significantly affected UNICEF’s ability to reach many areas with critical assistance in 2017. In response, the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) was scaled up at the beginning of the year in an effort to reach the most vulnerable populations in hard to reach locations. Since January, 27 RRM missions have taken place reaching 498,461 people with live-saving support.
Food insecurity and malnutrition rates in South Sudan have reached an alltime high, with 6 million people – some 50 per cent of the population – estimated to severely food insecure at present. Famine was declared in South Sudan in February, and since January, UNICEF and partners have reached 96,000 severe acutely malnourished (SAM) children with treatment.
South Sudan is in the middle of the most severe and protracted cholera outbreak in its history, with 13,880 cholera cases and 243 cholera deaths reported so far in 2017. UNICEF has continued to scale up its cholera response in line with the resurgence of transmission, providing direct support to more than 7,673 cholera cases this year.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
Throughout 2017 the security situation across the country has been volatile due to intermittent clashes between the government forces and different armed groups, particularly in Upper Nile, Jonglei, Western Bahr Ghazal and the Greater Equatoria region. While efforts have been made to bring forward the peace process, little difference has been seen in terms of the political and security situation on the ground. The ongoing clashes have severely limited and in some cases prevented humanitarian access to the affected areas where the civilian population were displaced, thus leaving them without needed immediate humanitarian assistance. Displacement has reached historical levels, with close to four million people having been forced to leave their homes, including more than 1.9 million people who remain internally displaced. Additionally, humanitarian workers continue to be targeted in the conflict; so far in 2017, at least 17 aid workers have been killed in South Sudan, with a total of 84 killed since the conflict began in December 2013.
In February 2017, famine was declared (and lasted until July) in Leer and Mayendit counties (in Unity State) by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). This was the first time that a famine had been declared anywhere in the world since 2011. In the May IPC update, an estimated 6 million people (50 per cent of the population) were projected to be severely food insecure in June and July 2017, compared to 5.5 million people in May 2017. This is the greatest number of people ever to experience severe food insecurity (IPC Phases 3, 4 and 5) in South Sudan. Acute malnutrition remains a major public health emergency in several parts of the country.
Widespread fighting, displacement and poor access to services, as well as disease outbreaks, extremely poor diets (in terms of both quality and quantity), low coverage of sanitation facilities and poor hygiene practices are the key drivers of the high levels of acute malnutrition seen across South Sudan. By June 2017, 23 (42%) out of 55 planned SMART surveys had been conducted and validated. Over 91 per cent showed global acute malnutrition (GAM) above the 15 per cent WHO emergency threshold. Most of the counties displaying high GAM rates were from Unity and Jonglei states.