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Group of refugees wade through deep mud while transporting buckets and tools.
War and hunger

South Sudan Crisis Watch

The International Rescue Committee provides vital support to South Sudanese who are struggling to recover from decades of civil war and life-threatening food shortages.

What's happening

  • Despite a peace accord signed in August 2015, fighting continues and South Sudan remains on the verge of economic collapse. The ongoing violence has made it dangerous for aid groups to reach those most in need.

  • Due to massive shortages, the U.N. Security Council describes the food crisis in South Sudan as the worst in the world.

  • At least 300 people are feared dead after renewed fighting rocked the capital city, Juba, July 8-10 as South Sudan observed its fifth anniversary. The IRC is calling on all parties to immediately cease hostilities.

  • The IRC is calling for U.N. peacekeeping force to ensure aid agencies can operate safely in order to get aid to those who need it.

Read our statement
Country facts
  • Population: 11.3 million
  • People displaced by crisis: 2 million
  • Rank in Human Development Index: 169 of 188
IRC response
  • Started work in southern Sudan: 1989
  • People assisted: 800,000

South Sudan crisis briefing

The region of southern Sudan had spent decades in the grip of ongoing conflict before South Sudan gained independence in 2011. The IRC provides lifesaving assistance and humanitarian aid to vulnerable South Sudanese who are trying to rebuild their lives and restore peace.

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What caused the current crisis in South Sudan?

After decades of civil war, southern Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011. The new country, South Sudan, enjoyed two years of fragile peace before political rivalry erupted once again into open conflict in 2013, leaving 10,000 dead and 2 million displaced.

A woman in rural Central Equatoria state, South Sudan. Photo: Peter Biro/IRC

Due to massive shortages, the U.N. Security Council describes the food crisis in South Sudan as the worst in the world, but the omnipresent threat of violence has made it dangerous for aid groups to reach those most in need.

Despite a peace accord signed in August 2015, South Sudan remains on the verge of economic collapse and continues to struggle with widespread food insecurity.

What are the main humanitarian challenges in South Sudan?

South Sudan remains one of the poorest and most undeveloped countries in the world. Food shortages caused by fighting and flooding afflict millions of people.

There is also a severe shortage of health care services and professionals (only once doctor for every 100,000 people). Medical facilities are under-equipped and unhygienic. Since many South Sudanese do not have access to clean water, deadly diseases such as malaria continue to spread.

Women and girls, in particular, are affected by the crisis, many facing violence, abuse and exploitation daily. Thousands lack the care they need to cope with unwanted pregnancies and pregnancy complications.

How does the IRC help in South Sudan?

The IRC’s mission is to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future.

A boy fetches water in a camp in Ganyliel
A boy fetches water in a camp in Ganyliel. Clean water is scarce in the area. Photo: Peter Biro/IRC

The IRC has been one of the largest providers of aid in southern Sudan for over 20 years, offering emergency assistance throughout decades of war. While we have been forced periodically to suspend our efforts due to violence, the IRC continues to provide lifesaving support to vulnerable South Sudanese in hard-to- reach areas.

As South Sudan struggles to build a lasting peace, the IRC is focusing our efforts in the Central Equatoria, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity and Lakes states by:

  • expanding the capacity of state clinics and training local health workers to provide basic and reproductive health care;
  • providing medical, psychosocial and legal support to survivors of sexual violence;
  • training community leaders and government officials on the importance of upholding human rights;
  • restoring wells and providing sanitation services to prevent the spread of disease;
  • providing returning South Sudanese refugees with emergency aid as well as job and livelihoods training.

What still needs to be done?

Download the IRC's South Sudan strategy action plan to learn more about our program priorities through 2020.

Our impact

In 2015, the IRC and our partner organizations in South Sudan provided:

551,000

people with access to primary and reproductive health care.

Each year, millions of people -- particularly women and children -- die from preventable causes in countries affected by violent conflict and natural disasters.

Learn about our health work.
45,000

men and women with information on preventing and responding to human rights abuses.

We want people to have control over important choices that affect their lives – in particular, where and how they live, and how they are governed.

Explore our empowerment work.
4,000

farmers with access to markets and farm resources, including fertilizers and seeds.

Economic wellbeing means having your most basic survival needs met and having the combination of assets and income so you can prosper.

Learn more about economic wellbeing.

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