Crisis Context and Impact
2021 saw a deterioration in the humanitarian situation in South Sudan. The country was confronted by social and political instability due to violence and a series of interconnected shocks, including conflict, persistent and unprecedented flooding, inflation, and the impact and economic weight of COVID-19. This has led to massive internal and cross-border displacement, further straining of scarce resources, livelihoods, and basic services, and increasing protection risks, particularly for the most vulnerable groups. Insecurity, fueled by sub-national intercommunal violence, crime and wide-scale impunity, continued to hamper the country’s roadmap to peace.
Over 8.9 million people (including 4.6 million children) are estimated to need some form of humanitarian assistance and protection in South Sudan in 2022.
Protection concerns persisted in 2021, with at least 3,414 civilians killed, injured, abducted, or subjected to conflict related sexual violence.
The lack of progress to implement transitional justice and security arrangements resulted in a deterioration of the protection environment. As the country enters a sensitive pre-electoral period, there is a continued need to strengthen protection services. Over 2 million people, or a fifth of the country’s overall population, are currently internally displaced, including 34,000 who live in the remaining Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Malakal.
There are also 2.3 million South Sudanese refugees living in neighbouring countries. Insecurity, the presence of explosive hazards, unresolved housing, land, and property (HLP) issues and lack of basic services in potential return areas continue to discourage large-scale returns.
Extreme levels of food insecurity and malnutrition, affecting two-thirds of the country’s population, make South Sudan one of the worst food insecurity emergencies in the world. 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 people in 2021. Extreme weather events have led to the degradation of natural resources, a reduction in agricultural production, food insecurity, and a loss in livelihoods. In addition, armed conflict has had a devastating impact on the food security situation across the country, including through asset stripping, restrictions in mobility, displacement, and impediments to food assistance.
Climate change has affected the variability of weather, exposing the country to torrential rains, seasonal flooding, and drought. Extreme weather events have had direct repercussions on peace and security. Flooding has been a major driver of displacement, followed by conflict. In 2021, 835,000 people were affected by floods in 33 counties across eight states, with Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states being the worst impacted. Climate change has altered the routes and periods of livestock transhumance, while the depletion of resources due to natural disasters, particularly grazing land, and access to water sources, has become a source of tensions between pastoralists and farmers.
Humanitarian access to affected populations continues to be constrained by armed violence, bureaucratic impediments, operational interference, violence and threats against humanitarian personnel and assets, and physical constraints.
Between January and December 2021, 591 reported humanitarian access incidents were recorded. Illegal taxation and extortion, particularly at checkpoints, delayed the delivery of humanitarian assistance in both government- and opposition-controlled areas, and diverted resources that would otherwise have been intended to provide life-saving supplies.
Poor road infrastructure and road conditions, exacerbated by heavy rain and floods, and explosive hazard contamination have posed additional challenges to humanitarian access.