Humanitarian help for South Sudan

A water pump in a settlement in South Sudan

A water pump in a settlement in South Sudan, © picture alliance/dpa

23.06.2020 - Article

One of the world’s most serious humanitarian crises is happening in South Sudan. The Republic of South Sudan and the Republic of the Sudan are a main focus of the German Government’s humanitarian assistance efforts.

Sluggish peace process

South Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries, has been independent since 9 July 2011 and is no longer part of the Republic of the Sudan. 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 interrupted 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). The Transitional Government of National Unity was formed in February/March 2020 on the basis of the R-ARCSS. Progress on implementing the peace agreement is, however, sluggish.

Complex reasons for the critical state of the Country

Demonstration in Juba
A resident of Nyamlell in the northwest of South Sudan walks along a road under construction.© picture alliance/dpa

Despite the peace agreement, the security situation remains fragile and the humanitarian situation dramatic. The humanitarian situation was already poor when the country became independent, and has continued to worsen as a result of the years of civil war. The current situation is characterised by interethnic and inter-community conflicts, a large degree of gender-specific violence targeting the civilian population and armed clashes between non-signatories of the peace agreement and government armed forces, including ceasefire violations. This is manifested not least in repeated armed attacks, livestock theft, a fragile security situation, internal displacement resulting from violence, the poor economic and supply situation which is particularly dependent on the development of the price of oil, volatile inflation and seasonal floods that make 60 percent of the country’s roads impassable during the rainy season.

Furthermore, the country is facing enormous structural challenges such as desolate (transport) infrastructure, which limits the provision of humanitarian assistance, 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. Poor governance, including corruption and high administrative barriers, hamper provision of humanitarian assistance. South Sudan is also one of the most dangerous countries for humanitarian assistance workers.

Humanitarian and refugee Situation

Women queuing for plastic sheeting that is being distributed by an aid organisation. Ganyiel, Unity State.
Women queuing for plastic sheeting that is being distributed by an aid organisation. Ganyiel, Unity State.© picture alliance/dpa

The humanitarian situation in South Sudan is disastrous: more than 7.5 million people are dependent on humanitarian assistance in 2020. Following the most recent migration flows in the country, there are now around 1.5 million internally displaced persons. In addition, there are 2.2 million South Sudanese refugees in the neighbouring countries of Uganda, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Living conditions are difficult for the refugees, many of whom have limited or no access to emergency shelter and food. Moreover, 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. The greatest humanitarian priorities are therefore protecting the civilian population and obtaining humanitarian access to people in need. This access has been severely curtailed by resurgent fighting in certain areas.

Food security has constantly deteriorated since the outbreak of the conflict, reaching a tragic record low in 2019. In 2020, more than 5.3 million people are affected by severe food insecurity. Maternal and infant mortality rates in the country are among the highest in the world. There is an urgent humanitarian need in all areas for medical care for refugees and internally displaced persons, including emergency medical care, food, emergency shelters, water, sanitation and hygiene and protective measures.

Food insecurity, poor healthcare

South Sudan, Juba: A man washes his hands at a Red Cross washing station.
South Sudan, Juba: A man washes his hands at a Red Cross washing Station.© picture alliance/dpa

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 basic healthcare. That includes support for medical measures within the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Funding from the Federal Foreign Office

In South Sudan, the Federal Foreign Office is using its resources to support humanitarian assistance 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). Between 2017 and 2019, the Federal Foreign Office made available a total of 235 million euro for humanitarian assistance measures in the country. The focus of the projects was on emergency 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 many 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 in the past years, the United Nations expects South Sudan to need 1.5 billion dollars in humanitarian assistance in 2020. The German Government is continuing its humanitarian activities amid the humanitarian crisis.

Related content


Top of page