Summary of humanitarian needs and key findings
Context, shocks and impact of the crisis
Two years after the signing of the revitalized peace agreement, its implementation has not reduced the humanitarian needs of the South Sudanese people. South Sudan remained a protection crisis in 2020. Lack of durable peace and limited investment in basic services are holding people back from stability and sustainable development.
In 2020, communities were hit hard by the triple shock of intensified conflict and sub-national violence, a second consecutive year of major flooding, and the impacts of COVID-19. Some 1.6 million people remained internally displaced and another 2.2 million as refugees in the region.
Insecurity, lack of basic services, and unresolved housing, land and property issues prevented people from returning home in large numbers.
Overall food security worsened and some communities were facing catastrophic needs.
More children were acutely malnourished than in the past three years. Women and girls continued to face extreme levels of gender-based violence and psychosocial distress. People’s coping mechanisms weakened as a consequence of the cumulative shocks, leading families to adopt negative practices such as forced labour and child marriage. The economy continued to spiral downwards, pushing people to the brink, especially in urban areas.
Access to essential services, including health care, education, water and sanitation, as well as protection and legal services, was already limited and much of the service infrastructure was damaged, destroyed or closed in 2020.
Humanitarian assistance delivered to more than 6 million people kept many communities from falling into deeper need, however increased violence against aid workers and assets and operational interference prevented hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people from predictably accessing the support they needed.
Scope of analysis
The analysis presented in this document reflects people’s needs in all 78 counties of South Sudan. COVID-19 mitigating measures limited primary data collection and delayed the usual assessment of needs during the lean season, when people’s needs are highest. Remote methods, including key informant interviews, were used to safely collect information on humanitarian needs. In a new development, the 2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) features findings from selected urban areas and large displacement camps. While the HNO considers the specific needs of the most vulnerable people—including displaced people and communities hosting them—whenever possible, most of the data sources used do not provide representative information by population group. However, basic sex and age disaggregated analysis is provided for all counties and sectors.
Humanitarian conditions, severity and people in need
People’s physical and mental wellbeing, living standards and coping mechanisms are expected to further deteriorate in 2021. Some 8.3 million people in South Sudan are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2021. These include 8,000,000 South Sudanese women, men, girls and boys and 310,000 refugees and asylum seekers. This is an 800,000 increase in absolute numbers from the 7.5 million people in need in 2020. According to the intersectoral severity of needs analysis, humanitarian needs are most concerning in Pibor County in Jonglei which was classified as the only county in catastrophic need. A total of 72 counties face extreme needs while five are in severe need.
The increase in needs is largely driven by the rising food insecurity. When consulted, food insecurity or lack of food was identified as the primary challenge or one of the primary challenges faced by the majority of affected people across sex and age groups.
Needs do not exist in a vacuum, however, as food insecurity weakens people’s health and nutritional status and exposes them to greater protection risks. Similarly, lack of access to clean water increases the likelihood of waterborne diseases and malnutrition.
Poor living conditions, especially for the displaced, weaken people’s health and security and affect their dignity. Among the most vulnerable people are newly displaced families; communities hosting large numbers of displaced and/or recently returned people; and households that are headed by a single parent or looking after older people or people with disabilities.