OVERVIEW OF THE CRISIS
As the conflict in South Sudan enters its fifth year in 2018, the humanitarian crisis has continued to intensify and expand due to the compounding effects of widespread violence and the deteriorating economic situation.
Ongoing fighting and surges of violence in new areas have forced people to flee their homes, many of them multiple times. The number of people uprooted since the start of the conflict in 2013 has reached more than 4 million, including 1.9 million internally displaced people (IDPs), with up to 85 per cent estimated to be children and women. More than 2 million people have departed to neighbouring countries— up 1.3 million since the violence in July 2016. One million people, largely from the Equatorias, have fled southward to Uganda alone.
Violence and rights violations continue unchecked and have become a persistent reality for civilians. Internally displaced people’s access to services has eroded with insecurity and economic decline. Rape and other types of gender-based violence (GBV) are pervasive but go largely unreported—the 1,324 cases reported in the first half of 2017 represent just a fraction of the aggressions faced mostly by women and girls, in a situation where undertaking daily survival tasks, such as collecting firewood and water, places them under threat.
Particularly vulnerable groups such as children, people with disabilities and older people, suffer the most intense consequences of sustained displacement, violence and lack of access to services.
Continued economic decline has undermined people’s access to basic resources. The cost of living has continued to escalate markedly. The effects are particularly acute in urban areas, with inflation reaching 183 per cent in Juba year on year. The South Sudanese pound (SSP) continued to depreciate to lower-than-ever values of more than 130 SSP to 1 US dollar in October 2017. Fuel shortages have constrained activity and led to theft and insecurity, while long gaps and inconsistency in salary payments to public sector employees have impacted the provision of health-care and education services and the rule of law.
Hunger and malnutrition have escalated on an unrelenting course, with about 1.1 million children under age 5 estimated to be acutely malnourished and in need of lifesaving services. Although localized famine was stopped in 2017, severe food insecurity continued to increase for the fifth consecutive year and a record-high 6 million people were severely food insecure in September. Post-harvest gains in October-December were expected to reduce the number to 4.8 million, though pockets of populations are in humanitarian catastrophe status in Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei and Western Bahr el Ghazal, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). Insecurity and related displacement have undermined already compromised agricultural production, destroying the livelihoods of farmers and herders and causing food shortages. Severe food insecurity is expected to rise again to 5.1 million people in early 2018 and deteriorate further in the lean season, with the worst-case scenario of a return to famine in multiple locations across the country.
Conflict and economic crisis have taken a toll on health. Disease outbreaks have lasted longer than ever and reached previously unaffected areas, weakening already vulnerable people’s ability to cope with multiple shocks. In 2017, South Sudan has seen the longest-running cholera outbreak in its history, which began in June 2016 and is expected to continue into 2018. Destruction of health-care facilities, attacks on health workers, and shortages of drugs and skilled professionals mean access to health care is increasingly sparse.
Preventable diseases like measles spread unchecked, and cases of kala-azar and meningitis are on the rise. With only 22 per cent of health facilities fully operational, the absence of services means that cases of emergency obstetric care, as well as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and mental health issues go largely untreated, causing increased morbidity and mortality.
Children continue to suffer the brunt of conflict and economic pressures. The situation for children has deteriorated over 2017, with continued incidents of recruitment, abuse, exploitation and other grave violations amounting to have directly affected about 100,000 children since the beginning of the conflict. More than 19,000 children are estimated to have been recruited by armed actors, up from 17,000 in 2016. More than 16,000 unaccompanied, separated or missing children have been registered in South Sudan since December 2013.
Destruction of schools and the departure of teachers from many affected areas severely impact access to education, with 2 million children out of school—more than ever.
Refugees seeking protection in South Sudan face threats to their safety and well-being as they settle in conditions which perpetuate their vulnerability. At the end of 2017, some 279,000 refugees were being hosted in South Sudan, a number which is expected to reach 304,560 in 2018. Most refugees came because of the ongoing fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan and settled mainly in Unity and Upper Nile, while a smaller number from the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia have been displaced on a protracted basis in Central and Western Equatoria. Continued clashes in conflict-affected areas leave refugees subject to attacks, and drive them to areas where their access to food, basic resources and livelihood options are limited.