The deteriorating humanitarian situation in South Sudan
In a UN Member State Virtual Briefing on the Humanitarian Situation in South Sudan, the members broached that National and international NGOs in South Sudan are extremely concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country.
Despite progress in the R-ARCSS, humanitarian needs have continued to worsen across the country, impacted by persisting violence, a lack of basic services, recurrent flooding, and economic decline. As the lean season and risk of further flooding starts, resources and support are needed today to prevent further humanitarian deterioration and loss of life.
The humanitarian situation in South Sudan has deteriorated to a critical state. Today 8.3 million people, nearly 70% of the population, need humanitarian assistance with the worst food security situation since independence. ‘Unprecedented’ flooding has become ‘precedented’ flooding with the third year of flooding on the horizon leading to loss of lives and livelihoods and erosion of coping strategies. The severity of the situation must represent a watershed moment in the humanitarian response and be met with an urgent and significant scale-up.
The food security and situation in South Sudan has reached levels not seen in years, exacerbated by conflict, flooding and economic issues. One in three people are food insecure, and 100,000 people are projected to be in ‘catastrophic’, IPC phase 5 conditions in 2021. 1.8 million women and children are acutely malnourished and the situation is continuing to worsen as the lean season is starting. A failure to provide resources, and a gendered response, to address both acute needs and address underlying causes will push South Sudan into famine.
Localisation and gender
South Sudanese organizations and staff are the primary responders across the country who stay and deliver time and again, yet their funding and inclusion at leadership levels of the response is limited and inconsistent. Women-led and women’s rights organizations are disenfranchised and receive the least resources, but reach some of the most marginalized and at-risk groups. A shift of power and sustained access to quality funding is needed to systemically strengthen and center the voice of South Sudanese, and particularly South Sudanese women, in designing, driving, and improving the response.
Funding & Coordination
A lack of funding and resources is critically affecting the ability of national and international organisations to respond to life-threatening conditions including WASH, protection and food security. Common pipelines are limited, food rations are being cut, logistics capacity is threatened, and NGOs are being forced to close programmes when they should be scaling up. A lack of additional funding will worsen the crisis and cause further loss of life. National and sub-national coordination, and emergency planning and prioritisation across the whole humanitarian system continue to experience significant challenges and a strategic stock-take of the overall response leadership is needed to ensure that resources are being used in the best possible way.
Humanitarian safety at threat
The safety and security of aid workers has seen a concerning deterioration. There was an alarming increase in aid workers attacked and killed, and aid supplies stolen, in 2020 with a worsening situation in recent months. In 2021, multiple direct attacks and threats against aid workers have already spiked and continue to be seen. A failure to ensure that humanitarians are protected will lead to unavoidable suspension or disruption of lifesaving operations in critically affected areas.
Girls, boys, women and men continue to be directly affected by multiple protection threats and rights abuses across the country with violence disproportionately affecting women and girls. Sexual and gender-based violence and child protection issues remain endemic with significant impunity. As humanitarian conditions worsen, the impact is felt most by women, girls and boys with threats of sexual violence and early marriage, child labour, abduction and denial of education access.
Building resilience & development
Whilst humanitarian needs remain extremely concerning, in areas of stability across the country, opportunities must be seized to build social cohesion and consolidate peace efforts, build resilience, encourage sustainable recovery, and harness future development opportunities to reduce aid dependency. A clear strategy for the response that works across the humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding nexus, with long-term adaptable funding, are needed.
The members challenged the Government of South Sudan to prioritize the provision of basic services to the population of South Sudan including water and sanitation, healthcare, education, shelter, and livelihood opportunities, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable.
Secondly, the Government of South Sudan must ensure safety and security of both South Sudanese citizens and humanitarian workers providing services across the country. Any threats or attacks on aid workers must be dealt with swiftly and with full transparency. There must be urgent and robust accountability for sexual and gender-based violence in any form.
The UN and NGOS are challenged to do a ‘Peer 2 Peer’ Review: Critical issues and gaps remain in the overall leadership and coordination of the response with some concerns continuing since the last operational peer review. An IASC led ‘Peer 2 Peer’ support mission to South Sudan should be considered as soon as possible to help all agencies collectively developing a renewed strategic approach for the humanitarian response.
Also, the briefing emphasized the Prioritization of needs: The United Nations and NGOs must recognize the sharp deterioration in humanitarian needs across South Sudan and prioritize the provision of urgent resources, staffing, and assistance to mitigate the impact on the most vulnerable South Sudanese populations in the country.
According to the briefing, Resources and funding are urgently required to support the deteriorating situation in South Sudan. Additional funding is required for frontline humanitarian assistance, including basic logistics capacity, food and nutrition assistance, water and sanitation, protection, and SGBV prevention and response, along with the commitment to peace-building initiatives. Localization and prioritization of women-led and women’s rights organizations are critical in bilateral funding.
Commitment to maintaining existing bilateral funding: Existing funding from bilateral donors must not be cut at a time when South Sudan lies on the brink of famine. Cuts to current funding levels, including by the Government of the United Kingdom, will cause irreparable harm and preventable loss of lives at a critical point in the humanitarian response, causing further social disruption.
To avoid cycles of aid dependency, recovery, development and peace building work must be invested in with long term commitments and adaptive programming. This must compliment and reinforce, but not replace front-line emergency services given the critically deteriorating needs.