Since civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, fighting, sexual violence, and human rights abuses continue unabated while imposed restrictions and insecurity obstruct the delivery of humanitarian aid. The conflict in the world’s youngest nation enters its fifth year in 2018. Famine warnings have been persistent since early 2017. The crisis is manmade and has a ripple effect in the region; around 2 million South Sudanese have taken refuge in neighboring countries and it is estimated that another 570 000 people will flee the country in 2018.
South Sudan suffers from decades of conflict and neglect, corruption and mismanagement. Extreme violence coupled with economic decline and worsening food insecurity has led to a crisis of unprecedented proportions. Non-adherence to International Humanitarian Law (IHL) by the warring parties is a constant concern. According to the UN, 7 million South Sudanese – more than half the population - will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2018.
The number of displaced, both internally and across borders, has risen to more than 4 million. The conflict has triggered a mass exodus of around 2 million people mainly to Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan. A localised famine was declared in February 2017, but a massive humanitarian effort succeeded in preventing a further deterioration of the situation. Five million people are expected to be severely food insecure in the first quarter of 2018, the highest number during this period since December 2013.
Children are caught up in the crisis: 70% of children in South Sudan are out of school. Almost 1.1 million children under the age of five are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition and in need of life-saving treatment. The toll on health care and education has been high. Numerous health facilities have been looted or destroyed. Only 22% of facilities are fully operational (UNOCHA, 2018) and tremendous effort had to be expended to contain South Sudan’s longest cholera outbreak, on-going since June 2016.
Together, the European Union and its Member States have contributed more than 43% of the humanitarian funding for South Sudan. In 2017 alone, the European Commission mobilised €248 million to address the crisis, with €122 million going to operational partners in South Sudan and €126 million to assistance for the refugees in neighbouring countries.
The European Union has prioritised support to various emergency preparedness and response teams, who react to new emergencies across the country, providing food assistance, health screenings, vaccinations as well as access to water, sanitation and essential emergency shelters to the affected people. This has been of particular importance in famine-declared areas.
Of the 1.9 million internally displaced people, over 209 000 live around UN peacekeeping bases, in so-called Protection of Civilian sites. The majority of them are women and girls who sought assistance and protection during the successive waves of violence. The European Union supports partner organisations in these sites to offer basic services as well as protection and shelter.
With emergency levels of malnutrition reported in numerous counties and, according to UNICEF, the prospect of 250 000 severely malnourished children in 2018, the European Union supports partners to set up nutrition centres across the country where children as well as pregnant and nursing women can receive treatment and care. Without treatment, children who suffer from severe acute malnutrition are at high risk of dying. As in previous years, the EU greatly contributed to the humanitarian effort in 2017 which saw 1.8 million children vaccinated against measles, more than 180 000 children treated for severe acute malnutrition, and 300 000 children access education.
Pre-famine conditions persist across the country. The European Union has helped UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) to scale-up food assistance and nutrition interventions in hard to reach areas with the highest needs, particularly Jonglei, Upper Nile and most recently the Equatorias. Commission funding has also supported the stockpiling of ready-to-use therapeutic foods.
Almost 2 million South Sudanese have fled across the borders. The European Union supports the refugees with food assistance, shelter, health and nutrition care, protection including psycho-social assistance, water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as education. Of the total number of refugees in the region, about half are children below the age of 18. The European Union funds protection programmes for the unaccompanied minors and for female survivors of sexual- and gender-based violence.