With the conflict in South Sudan in its fifth year, the humanitarian crisis continues to deepen. More than 7 million people need assistance and protection in 2018, and the already dire food insecurity situation is not likely to improve, so long as the parties to the conflict continue to clash and flout international humanitarian law. Two out of three pregnant or breastfeeding women are estimated to be acutely malnourished and more than 2 million South Sudanese children are out of school. Only one in ten people has access to basic sanitation.
Within the confines of the dangerous operating environment – more than 100 aid workers have been killed since the conflict broke out in December 2013 – humanitarian partners endure significant risks to reach people in need and, remarkably, reached nearly 5.5 million people last year out of their 6 million target.
"People want health care, they want schools, they want to have hope in their futures, and the single thing they want most is peace", said UN Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock at the High-Level Humanitarian Event on South Sudan. "They want the assistance humanitarians can provide in a more consistent, sustained way, notwithstanding all the challenges".
"Ending violence is the first and single most important thing needed to alleviating human suffering", said ERC Lowcock during his visit to South Sudan in May. Credit: OCHA
South Sudan is first and foremost a protection crisis, and civilians continue to be subjected to violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. The country is also the most violent place in the world to deliver assistance and protection to people in need. Last year alone, over 600 humanitarian workers were forced to relocate for extended periods because of conflict and insecurity. Beyond physical risks – and in the context of conflict economy and constrained humanitarian access – tackling the fluid operating environment also calls for greater risk tolerance with respect to new, innovative ways in how needs are identified and met. While advocating for the conflict to end, aid agencies are adapting the way they work to more effectively and transparently understand and meet the needs of millions of people across the country. This calls for continuous attention to the voices of the people most affected by the conflict.
Mr Lowcock identified four critical steps to be taken to ensure that humanitarian partners can continue to reach people in need:
- Without inclusive and sustainable peace there won't be an end to the crisis.
- Parties to the conflict must comply with international law, be help accountable and end all attacks on civilians and aid workers.
- The whole humanitarian system has to work in a principled manner with a focus on the people affected by the conflict. The diversity of the response systems, including national organizations, is a strength and has proved its success.
- Funding is critically needed to sustain the large response for the crisis, both for life-saving elements and to enable stabilization, resilience and recovery from the conflict.