South Sudan has faced insecurity since its independence in 2011. Going into 2024, the war across the border in Sudan threatens to undermine the country’s already fragile economy and worsen political tensions in the already delicate period leading up to South Sudan’s first-ever elections, scheduled for December. On top of this, high levels of flooding are predicted, adding to the impact of four years of disastrous repeated floods.

Currently, 9 million people in South Sudan are in need of humanitarian assistance. This amounts to 72% of the population.

A man and woman poses for a photo outside their home in South Sudan. Behind the man, a boy sits on a chair.
Riak Thon, 39, and his wife stand in front of their home in Jamjang, South Sudan. Riak participated in an IRC program that engages men on how they interact with the women in their lives.
Photo: Adrienne Suprenant for the IRC

Predictions for 2024

South Sudan’s first ever elections will cause further insecurity

In December 2024, South Sudan is preparing to hold its first presidential elections since independence in 2011 following several delays, with President Salva Kiir and Vice President (and Kiir’s long-term rival) Riek Machar both likely to run.

The rivalry between Kiir and Machar was a key factor in the civil war that broke out in December 2013 and formally ended with a 2020 peace deal. Any real or perceived delays or irregularities with the vote could drive social and political unrest, potentially spilling over into violence and worsening localized conflicts. 

Intercommunal clashes have already been surging in Upper Nile State since August 2022. Further violence could disrupt people’s ability to make a living and drive them from their homes. There are already 2.4 million South Sudanese refugees, mostly in neighboring countries, and 2.3 million people are displaced internally.


A predicted fifth year of flooding could drive further displacement

South Sudan is particularly vulnerable to climate shocks, ranking as the second most at-risk country on INFORM’s climate risk index. Families have already endured four years of devastating floods, forcing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, causing extreme levels of malnutrition, and leading to outbreaks of waterborne diseases. 

The upcoming El Niño is expected to bring more rainfall, increasing the likelihood of additional flooding starting in mid-2024, according to the World Food Program (WFP). This poses an added burden on communities that have only been able to recover to a limited extent from previous challenges. The flooding reduces food production as agricultural lands are destroyed and people are displaced, exacerbating food insecurity in the region.

Abuk holds her child, Nyirou, outside of their flooded home. Water has flooded the area surrounding the home.
Abuk, 30, holds her sleeping daughter Nyirou, 4, in front of their flooded house, in Northern Bahr El Ghazal, South Sudan.
Photo: Adrienne Suprenant for the IRC

A weakening will deepen poverty

Landlocked South Sudan is dependent on access to pipelines and ports in Sudan to conduct international trade and export the oil it produces. If these trade routes close, South Sudan’s economy will likely face a major crisis, with reductions in economic activity that will cause particular harm to the most poor and vulnerable. 

The conflict in Sudan has already disrupted food imports, increasing the cost of a food basket by 30% in South Sudanese border towns, some of which are hosting refugees and returnees. 

The depreciation of the South Sudanese pound has also pushed up the price of basic goods and reduced people’s purchasing power. As a result, 7.1 million people are predicted to face crisis or worse levels of food insecurity in April-July 2024—having to make growing sacrifices to be able to put food on the table.

Children in Nyal laugh as they skip rope together in the front-yard of an IRC Learning Center.
Children play in the yard of the IRC Child-Friendly Learning Center in Nyal, which provides informal education for children whose families are unable to pay school fees.
Photo: Raissa Karama for the IRC

The ongoing influx of refugees from Sudan will increase needs in the border region

By late November 2023, almost 400,000 Sudanese refugees and South Sudanese returnees had entered the country due to conflict in Sudan since April 2023. With a resolution to the conflict not expected soon, the arrival of refugees and returnees in South Sudan is likely to keep rising, leading to heightened needs in border areas. 

Those fleeing Sudan may face challenges accessing shelter and basic services, including healthcare. Overcrowded border transit centers lack adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene services, raising the risk of communicable diseases. Food insecurity and malnutrition are also prevalent among refugees and returnees, with 90% facing critical food needs, according to the World Food Program (WFP). Most arrivals are in Upper Nile State, where ongoing conflict since August 2022, exposing them to a greater risk of violence.

Humanitarian access remains extremely difficult

In the first half of 2023, more humanitarian workers faced attacks in South Sudan than in any other country, showing the serious dangers they already deal with. If violence between armed groups increases and elections contribute to instability, it could heighten risks for humanitarians responding to growing needs. Additionally, flooding may further damage already inadequate roads, making it even tougher for aid organizations to reach communities in need.

How the IRC helps in South Sudan

With more than 900 full-time staff members, the IRC in South Sudan provides critical primary and reproductive health, nutrition, environmental health, protection, and economic recovery and resilience services. We partner with national and state authorities, as well as local organizations, to strengthen health systems and support displaced populations.

Nyapar stands tall, posing for a portrait in an agricultural field in South Sudan.
Nyapar Kujiek received support from the IRC Women’s Empowerment Center to build her farming business in Kanyhial, South Sudan.
Photo: Raissa Karama for the IRC

How can I help people in South Sudan?

The IRC is working with partners to deliver critical emergency aid to families in South Sudan and around the world. Donate now to support our critical work. We are on the frontlines providing critical aid to crisis-affected people in more than 40 countries, including places on the 2024 Emergency Watchlist.

Read more about the top 10 crises the world can’t ignore in 2024 and download the full 2024 Emergency Watchlist report for profiles of all 20 crisis countries on the IRC's list.