Summary of humanitarian needs and key findings
Context, shocks and impact of the crisis
Ten years after independence and three years after the signing of the revitalized peace agreement, people in South Sudan continue to face deteriorating humanitarian conditions. Their situation is worsened by endemic violence, conflict, access constraints and operational interference, public health challenges such as direct and indirect effects of COVID-19 and climatic shocks resulting in the dual phenomena of extraordinary flooding and localized drought, which have a severe impact on people’s livelihoods, hampers access to education and water, sanitation and hygiene and health services. Protection concerns remain high, with people impacted by violence having limited access to justice and the rule of law. In 2022, the humanitarian community in South Sudan estimates that more than two-thirds of South Sudan's population, 8.9 million people, are in need of humanitarian assistance, an increase of 600,000 since 2021.
Continued conflict and instability in the country combined with flooding have resulted in large-scale internal and cross-border displacement. At the same time, limited improvements in some areas have prompted some people to spontaneously return. In addition, the government, with the support of some humanitarian agencies - has facilitated returns to certain areas. Due to compounding shocks, both in areas of displacement and return, populations have been forced to keep displacing time and again. At least 90,000 returnees from abroad remained displaced within the country, unable to reach their homes. In 2021, there were 2 million IDPs in the country (55 per cent of whom are women and girls), as compared to 1.7 million in 2020. An additional 2.3 million South Sudanese remain refugees hosted in neighbouring countries.
Climate change continues to impact different sectors, particularly agriculture, which is one of the most climatesensitive economic sectors. Above normal rainfall for the third consecutive year in 2021 led to prolonged flooding, which impacted areas that had not flooded in previous years. An estimated 835,000 people were affected by severe flooding between May and December 2021, and 80 per cent of those affected were from Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states. Many flood-displaced people, including those who were displaced by the 2020 flood were unable to return to their homes until early 2022, if at all. Warrap, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Jonglei states were the most affected in terms of crop and livestock production. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) assessment findings indicated that 65,107 hectares of land planted with cereals had been damaged, with an estimated loss of 37,624 tonnes of grain in the flood-affected areas. The cumulative impact of recurrent flooding contributed to the destruction and damage to water facilities, leaving vulnerable people in urgent need of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, and intensified existing vulnerabilities of affected people, which include high poverty rates, limited access to basic services including health and education, high prevalence of disease outbreaks, and widespread displacement.
Covariate climatic, conflict and economic shocks, as well as other household-level stressors, for example, genderbased violence (GBV) and poor water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, are some of the key drivers of humanitarian needs in the country. Food insecurity stabilized in 2018 and 2019 at around 6.3 million food-insecure people but saw a significant rise to 7.4 million people in 2021. In 2022, an estimated 8.3 million people, including refugees, are expected to experience severe food insecurity by the depth of the lean season (May-July) as shocks appear to be intensifying. There are 13 counties with extreme levels of food insecurity in 2022, compared to 6 in 2021. In addition, an estimated 2 million people, including 1.3 million children under the age of 5, and 676,000 pregnant and lactating women, are expected to be acutely malnourished in 2022.
Humanitarian access to essential services, including health care, education, water and sanitation, as well as protection and legal services, remains a challenge in an already complex context. Between January and December 2021, 591 reported humanitarian access incidents were recorded. These ranged from violence against humanitarian personnel and assets to operational interference. In 2021, five aid workers lost their lives while delivering humanitarian assistance and services.
A total of 322 aid workers were relocated due to insecurity and threats against humanitarian personnel. Humanitarian warehouses and facilities were targeted during the violence, and humanitarian supplies were looted in some locations, significantly impacting response operations in conflictaffected and food-insecure areas.
Projection of Needs (2022)
As of December 2021, an estimated 5.3 million people were reached with some form of humanitarian assistance. However, to enable the response to people impacted by flooding, humanitarian organizations were compelled to the re-program in-country support, which resulted in a reduction of food assistance to internally displaced people, refugees and communities in acute food and livelihood crises. These unmet needs increased vulnerability for populations in 2022.
More people are likely to experience severe food insecurity in 2022. An estimated 8.3 million people, including refugees, are expected to experience severe food insecurity at the peak of the 2022 lean season (May-July). This represents a 7 per cent increase from the 7.7 million in 2021. The counties of most concern are in the states of Jonglei, Lakes, Unity and Warrap (specifically Greater Tonj), with the most extreme case being Fangak County in Jonglei State, where the situation is comparable to Pibor County in 2021. Food consumption gaps are extreme, and people have largely exhausted their emergency coping strategies. In 2022, the precarious situation is expected to be further exacerbated by the country’s increasing humanitarian caseload, the expected increase in the duration of needs in the most affected areas and the projected further reduction in humanitarian assistance across the country. Food assistance is expected to decrease by 10 to 20 per cent from the already reduced levels in 2021. The current economic crisis is impacting people’s ability to access markets, while conflict, flooding and seasonal effects are limiting the flow of both commercial and humanitarian goods and services.
An estimated 2 million people, including 1.3 million children under the age of 5, and 676,000 pregnant and lactating women are expected to be at risk of acute malnourishment. Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) prevalence above the emergency threshold of 15 per cent was reported in people in twenty-six counties in six states (Jonglei, Unity, Warrap, Upper Nile, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Eastern Equatoria). The leading cause of morbidity is malaria, followed by acute respiratory infections and acute watery diarrhoea. In 2022, morbidity rates are expected to increase proportionally for each of these causes as they did in 2021, compared to 2020. People are at constant risk of an outbreak of infection. In the Bentiu IDP camp, the Hepatitis E virus continues to circulate, with an increased risk of spreading the disease to people outside the camp.
A continuation and increase in sub-national violence reported in many states across the country, including Jonglei, Lakes, Unity, Upper Nile, Warrap (particularly Greater Tonj) and Western Equatoria (notably Tambura), will likely continue to disrupt livelihoods and trade and contribute to an increase in humanitarian needs in 2022. Access to justice and the rule of law are limited for many people who experience crimes and violations. Gender-based violence (GBV) remains a threat; women and girls are exposed to risks when carrying out their routine activities, which is further exacerbated due to flooding that limits livelihood opportunities (e.g. collection of firewood and charcoal production). Feeling unsafe, some women and girls avoid areas such as water points, latrines, distribution areas, markets and firewood gathering sites.
Many violations go under-reported. Women, children, older persons and persons with disabilities (PWDs) are particularly vulnerable, exposing them to risks of exploitation. In South Sudan, where 95 per cent of livelihoods depend on traditional rain-fed agriculture, crop farming, pastoralism and animal husbandry, climate shocks are likely to lead to an increase in livestock mortality and a decline in the amount and viability of land farmers can cultivate. This will also lead to traditional seasonal migration routes of pastoralists to be disrupted and less land will be available for cattle to graze, which may further increase the risk of conflict in affected areas.