The humanitarian situation in South Sudan has deteriorated dramatically due to the devastating combination of conflict, economic decline and climatic shocks. Insecurity and lack of access have left some 100,000 people facing starvation in parts of South Sudan, and famine was declared on 20 February. An additional 1 million people are on the brink of famine. By the height of the lean season in July, some 5.5 million people will be severely food insecure across the country.
Since the famine was declared, the United Nations and partners have delivered food to nearly 114,000 people across four locations in Mayendit county and nearly 25,500 people in two locations in Koch county. Three mobile response teams are currently deployed across Leer county to deliver food to nearly 48,500 people, and food distributions are planned in Koch and Panyiajar.
“The people of South Sudan are suffering beyond measure,” said Eugene Owusu, the Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan. “The famine that was declared last week represents only the most extreme tip of the iceberg of needs in this country. To avert further catastrophe, it is imperative that humanitarians are able to act swiftly and robustly. I implore all parties to this conflict to uphold their responsibilities under international humanitarian law, place the plight of the people first, give aid workers unfettered access and protect civilians.”
Since late January, clashes on the Western Bank in Upper Nile have forced tens of thousands of people to flee Wau Shilluk and surrounding areas. Humanitarians remain deeply concerned regarding the safety of these people, many of whom are now in Kodok and Aburoc.
In Jonglei, clashes reached new locations recently, causing civilians to flee. During the chaos, humanitarian compounds were looted by armed actors and community members. Last week, aid workers in Central Equatoria were denied access to key locations outside of Lainya town, where tens of thousands of people in need have not received aid in months. And most recently, 28 humanitarians were forced to relocate from Mayendit County, Unity—one of the two counties hit by famine—due to insecurity.
Mr. Owusu welcomed the South Sudan President’s reassurance last week that all humanitarian organizations will have unimpeded access to needy populations across the country. But he urged for words to translate into concrete actions so that operations can scale up and life-saving assistance can reach people in need.
Since December 2013, some 3.4 million people have been displaced, including about 1.5 million who fled to neighbouring countries. Against this backdrop, humanitarian organizations are urgently appealing for US$1.6 billion, which is critically needed to provide life-saving assistance and protection to some 5.8 million people across South Sudan in 2017. To date, the appeal is only 1.5 per cent funded.