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 and his critics. The ongoing conflict is spreading ever further along ethnic lines and is now tantamount to a civil war. This has had a dramatic impact on the country and its civilian population.
The humanitarian situation in South Sudan is disastrous. At present, 6.4 million people require assistance, while 2.5 million are in acute need of food aid.
Morbidity rates are high, and the country has one of the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the world. There is an urgent humanitarian need for medical care, food, sources of livelihood, 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.
Complex reasons for the critical situation in the country
The humanitarian situation in South Sudan has been critical since the country became independent, and has continued to deteriorate since then. The causes of this situation are complex. Years of civil war, ongoing tensions and border conflicts with the Sudan, violent inter‑ethnic and inter‑community clashes, and disputes between state and non‑state groups have exacerbated the humanitarian situation, as have attacks by armed groups, the fragile security situation, internal displacement resulting from violence, the arrival of further refugees from neighbouring countries, the poor economic and supply situation, high prices, 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 (water, sanitation, health).
The refugee situation
Since December 2013, at least 1.3 million people have been displaced within South Sudan, while almost 500,000 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.
South Sudan has itself been sheltering large numbers of refugees from neighbouring countries for years. Over 250,000 refugees from the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, the Central African Republic and Uganda are currently living in South Sudan.
Since South Sudan became independent in 2011, just under 430,000 people have returned there from the Sudan. As there is hardly any infrastructure in the country, aid organisations are largely responsible for looking after the returnees. Increasingly, there are conflicts between the returnees and host communities over land and food.
South Sudan’s former oil production boycott created financial problems for the national budget, thus necessitating the discontinuation of many state aid measures and causing wages to be paid only irregularly or not at all. That exacerbated the plight of many.
The current clashes pose a threat to oil production, which restarted in April 2013. They are also aggravating food insecurity, which is particularly critical in a number of states. Poor infrastructure and inadequate market development are obstacles to transporting food to especially needy regions. Seasonal floods cause further emergencies and outbreaks of diseases such as hepatitis and malaria.
Support from the Federal Foreign Office
In South Sudan, the Federal Foreign Office is using its resources to support emergency 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 2014, the Federal Foreign Office provided a total of 16.5 million euros for humanitarian aid measures in South Sudan – 30 per cent more than in 2013. 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 continues to expect South Sudan to need 1.8 billion dollars in humanitarian aid in 2015. The German Government is continuing its humanitarian activities in 2015 in line with what is needed.