Volatile situation despite peace agreement
South Sudan has been independent since 9 July 2011 and is no longer part of the Republic of the Sudan. It is one of the world’s poorest countries. In December 2013, fighting broke out following a long-standing power struggle between the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir (a member of the Dinka community) and his deputy Riek Machar (a member of the Nuer).
Following massive international pressure, a peace agreement, the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS), was signed in August 2015 under the supervision of the regional organisation Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). However, this peace process was torpedoed by the renewed eruption of the civil war in July 2016. On 12 September 2018, the warring parties in South Sudan’s civil war reactivated the peace agreement from 2015 following months of negotiations (Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, R-ARCSS). Despite the peace agreement, the security situation remains fragile and the humanitarian situation dramatic.
Complex reasons for the critical state of the country
The humanitarian situation in South Sudan was already volatile when the country became independent, and it has continued to deteriorate since then. The causes are complex, but years of civil war and violent inter ethnic and inter community clashes have exacerbated the situation, which is also marked by high levels of gender-specific violence against the civilian population, ongoing violations of ceasefires and conflicts between armed groups. Other factors include repeated armed attacks, livestock theft, a fragile security situation, internal displacement resulting from violence, the arrival of further refugees from neighbouring countries, the poor economic and supply situation, volatile inflation and seasonal floods that make 60 per cent of the streets impassable during the rainy season.
Furthermore, the country is facing enormous structural challenges such as desolate (transport) infrastructure, which limits the provision of humanitarian aid, a very low level of education, an almost complete lack of state institutions and insufficient basic services particularly in the area of water, sanitation and health. Administrative barriers are another obstacle to humanitarian assistance. South Sudan is also one of the most dangerous countries for humanitarian aid workers, who frequently fall victim to attacks.
Consequently, the humanitarian situation in South Sudan is disastrous. More than 7 million people require assistance, while 5.2 million are in acute need of food aid. Morbidity rates and maternal and infant mortality rates in the country are among the highest in the world. There is an urgent humanitarian need for medical care for refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as emergency medical care, food, emergency shelters, water, sanitation and hygiene.
The greatest humanitarian priorities are protecting the civilian population and obtaining humanitarian access to people in need. This access has been severely curtailed by fighting.
The refugee situation
At least one million people have been displaced within South Sudan, with the numbers continuing to rise. More than 2.2 million people have fled to neighbouring countries. Conditions are difficult for the internally displaced persons, many of whom have limited or no access to emergency shelter and food.
In addition, South Sudan has itself been sheltering large numbers of refugees from neighbouring countries for years. Over 290,000 refugees from the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic and Uganda are currently living in South Sudan.
Food insecurity, poor healthcare
The economic situation in South Sudan has deteriorated rapidly in recent years. Poor infrastructure, inadequate market development and corrupt and inefficient administration hamper the provision of food. Seasonal floods cause further emergencies and outbreaks of diseases such as hepatitis and malaria. International donors are providing crucial financial support in the area of healthcare, and around seven million people are dependent on humanitarian assistance.
Support from the Federal Foreign Office
In South Sudan, the Federal Foreign Office is using its resources to support humanitarian aid projects by German and international NGOs, as well as the work of humanitarian organisations of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). In 2017 and 2018, the Federal Foreign Office made available a total of 165 million euros for humanitarian assistance measures in the country. The focus of the projects was on food aid, access to clean water, sanitary facilities, medical care, emergency shelter, protective measures, improving living conditions and disaster risk reduction. Because of the poor state of the roads, financial support was also provided to the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), which is particularly important in aid logistics.
In view of the dramatic developments, the United Nations expects South Sudan to need 1.5 billion dollars in humanitarian aid in 2019. The German Government is continuing its humanitarian activities and since 2016 has earmarked funds totalling more than 191 million euros to support humanitarian assistance projects in South Sudan.