South Sudan Complex Emergency Fact Sheet #9

July 10, 2017

  • Dire food insecurity persists despite UN removal of Famine designation in Unity.
  • Approximately 6 million people projected to be severely food insecure in July.
  • US government (USG) announces $199 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the South Sudan response.

Violence across South Sudan displaced an additional 70,000 people in May, increasing the total number of displaced people to nearly 4 million, including 2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and nearly 2 million refugees in neighboring countries.

On July 8, the U.S. Government (USG) announced more than $199 million in additional humanitarian assistance for famine- and conflict-affected populations in South Sudan and South Sudanese refugees in the region. .

Numbers At A Glance

2.0 million

IDPs in South Sudan


Individuals Seeking Refuge at UNMISS Bases

2 million

Refugees and Asylum Seekers from South Sudan in Neighboring Countries


South Sudanese Refugees in Uganda


Refugees from Neighboring Countries in South Sudan

Humanitarian Funding

For the South Sudan Response

USAID/OFDA $129,252,395
USAID/FFP $336,608,368
State/PRM $52,810,000



Fighting across South Sudan continues to displace populations within South Sudan, exacerbate humanitarian needs, and prompt vulnerable people to flee to neighboring countries. As of late May, conflict had displaced nearly 4 million people, including approximately 2 million IDPs and nearly 2 million South Sudanese refugees, according to the UN. In response to critical humanitarian needs, USG partners are delivering life-saving assistance to conflict-affected populations throughout South Sudan, as well as South Sudanese refugees sheltering in neighboring countries.

The South Sudan Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Technical Working Group released a food security assessment on June 21 concluding that sustained humanitarian interventions have moderately improved food security conditions in Unity State’s Leer and Mayendit counties, resulting in the removal of the area-wide Famine—IPC 5—level designation for acute food insecurity in the counties.6 However, life-threatening food insecurity continues to impact households across South Sudan, particularly in conflict-affected areas, as vulnerable populations in Unity and Jonglei states are expected to experience Catastrophe—IPC 5—conditions, or famine at the household level, through June and July. Countrywide, the number of acutely food-insecure people has increased from 5.5 million to 6 million people—more than 50 percent of the population—representing the most food-insecure year recorded in South Sudan’s history. In response, relief organizations, including USAID/FFP partner the UN World Food Program (WFP), continue to provide life-saving assistance to food-insecure populations throughout the country.

On June 28, U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan Molly C. Phee and USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) staff participated in a trip to Western Bahr el Ghazal State’s Wau town led by USAID/OFDA partner the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The group visited the town’s UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) protection of civilians (PoC) site adjacent area and Cathedral collective center, which are two of the most congested displacement sites in South Sudan.

In early June, a U.S. congressional delegation led by U.S. Representatives Christopher H. Smith and Karen R. Bass visited South Sudan and Uganda to meet with government officials and humanitarian organization representatives to urge stakeholders to improve humanitarian access in South Sudan and resolve the conflict.

May marked the first month to date in 2017 in which the UN did not report a relief worker death. However, relief actors reported 89 humanitarian access incidents in South Sudan during May, approximately 33 percent of which involved violence against relief personnel, humanitarian assets, or civilian infrastructure, the UN reports. Conflict and banditry across the country negatively affected emergency operations and prompted relocation of at least 36 relief staff, including personnel from areas of Unity affected by Famine levels of acute food insecurity.

According to the UN, armed actors abducted four foreign contractors and four local contractors in the capital city of Juba on June 30, releasing the individuals unharmed on July 2 following negotiations led by South Sudan security services. The UN reports that the abducted individuals were private company employees contracted to a nongovernmental organization (NGO) and had been drilling for water outside of a civilian protection site in Juba at the time of their abduction.

Intercommunal conflict between youth members of the Dinka Bor and Murle ethnic groups in Jonglei State has resulted in multiple civilian deaths, extensive destruction of property, and widespread displacement in recent months, the UN reports. Leaders from the two groups signed an agreement to cease hostilities on May 24, which defused tensions in the area, according to relief actors. Camp management staff at the UNMISS PoC site in Jonglei’s Bor town reported increased arrivals of IDPs, primarily women and children, with many reporting incidents of gender-based violence (GBV) by armed actors.

In addition, nutrition actors in Jonglei report that insecurity in recent months has led to the closure of 37 outpatient therapeutic programs and 36 targeted supplementary feeding programs—representing approximately one-third of all malnutrition treatment sites in the state. The Nutrition Cluster—the coordinating body for humanitarian nutrition activities, comprising UN agencies, NGOs, and other stakeholders—is holding monthly meetings in Jonglei to identify gaps in assistance and coordinate a more robust nutrition response.

Humanitarian organizations continue to respond to the needs of approximately 50,000 IDPs sheltering in and around Wau, including households staying in the recently established Hai Massna IDP settlement. Approximately 4,700 IDPs were sheltering at Hai Massna as of mid-May, including individuals forcibly relocated from a church compound in Wau and newly displaced populations from the local community, according to USAID/OFDA partner the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED). According to an early May assessment by USAID/OFDA partner Danish Refugee Council (DRC), the Hai Massna site lacks health care facilities, latrines, and adequate food and safe drinking water. Community leaders also report the presence of unexploded ordnance in the area. Relief actors are providing life-saving protection and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) assistance at Hai Massna, and ACTED plans to provide basic camp coordination and camp management support.

The REACH Initiative—which receives USAID/OFDA support through ACTED—continues to conduct assessments to inform humanitarian programming in hard-to-reach areas throughout South Sudan. Through more than 1,300 interviews and nearly 700 assessments in IDP settlements conducted in April and May, the organization found that armed conflict was the principal driver of displacement in the Greater Equatoria region—comprising Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, and Western Equatoria states—and Unity, Upper Nile, and Western Bahr el Ghazal states. Meanwhile, food insecurity was the primary impetus for displacement in Jonglei, cited by 86 percent of respondents. The REACH assessments also identified cattle raiding, forced recruitment, gender-based violence (GBV), and looting as the most frequently reported protection concerns across assessed settlements, while malaria was the most commonly identified health concern.

As of late June, Uganda was hosting nearly 1.3 million refugees and asylum seekers, including more than 970,000 individuals from South Sudan, and the remainder from Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and other countries in the region, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports. The total South Sudanese refugee population in Uganda increased by more than 300 percent from June 2016 to June 2017— representing the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world, according to the UN.

International donors pledged approximately $358 million in June to support the increasing humanitarian needs of refugees sheltering in Uganda. The Government of Uganda, UN agencies, and NGOs are expanding services for host communities and providing refugees with life-saving assistance, including food commodities, safe drinking water, and emergency health services, but continue to face difficulties responding to the scale and scope of humanitarian needs.

Sustained humanitarian assistance in Unity, supplemented by a scale-up in relief operations following the Famine declaration in February, has improved food security conditions in Leer and Mayendit and resulted in the removal of the Famine designation for the counties as of mid-June, according to the IPC Technical Working Group. In addition, humanitarian interventions in Unity—including USAID-supported programs—have prevented deterioration into Famine levels for populations in the state’s Koch and Panyijiar counties. Since the February 20 famine declaration, USAID/FFP partner WFP has conducted 31 rapid response missions into these four counties, distributing more than 16,000 metric tons (MT) of food assistance to approximately 400,000 beneficiaries.

While emergency food assistance has eliminated the number of people facing Famine-level acute food insecurity, the assessment found that the acutely food-insecure population in South Sudan has increased from 5.5 million in May to an estimated 6 million people in June and July. The new forecast represents the highest recorded level of food insecurity in the history of South Sudan, according to the report.

The ongoing economic crisis in South Sudan has resulted in increased food prices and severe inflation and continues to contribute to deteriorating food security, according to a market price monitoring bulletin recently issued by WFP. Additionally, rain-damaged roads and heightened insecurity along supply routes, including the Juba-Bor road have negatively affected food availability and accessibility in recent months, with the price for white sorghum and white maize increasing by 112 percent in Jonglei’s Bor town between April and May.

On June 20, the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GoRSS), the Government of Sudan (GoS), and WFP formalized a one-year extension to an existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that permits WFP to transport assistance into South Sudan via Sudan. While the previous MoU allowed access via one road corridor, the extension allows WFP to utilize three humanitarian road corridors between Sudan and South Sudan and stage air operations out of Sudan’s El Obeid airfield. This MoU—extended until June 30, 2018—allows the UN agency to transport emergency food and relief items to vulnerable populations in South Sudan more quickly and cost-effectively than other available transportation options. WFP plans to recommence use of the corridors following the May-to-September rainy season, which typically renders many roads impassable.

In May, USAID/FFP partner WFP reached approximately 2.4 million people in South Sudan with 23,500 MT of lifesaving food assistance, representing the highest quantity of food commodities distributed by WFP in the country during a single month since the conflict began. In preparation for the ongoing rainy season, WFP pre-positioned approximately 116,600 MT of food commodities—exceeding its goal of nearly 115,000 MT—in strategic locations across South Sudan. The final pre-positioned amount represents the largest quantity of food pre-positioned by WFP in South Sudan since the country gained independence in 2011.

USAID/OFDA partner the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is supporting agriculture and food security interventions in South Sudan through its emergency livelihoods and response program. In recent months, the UN agency has reached more than 80,500 vulnerable households in Unity, including those sheltering in hard-to-reach areas of the state, with approximately 52,700 fishing kits, 43,700 vegetable kits, and 28,100 crop kits. The kits provide households with essential supplies—such as seeds, planting tools, and fishing equipment—to conduct household-level agricultural and fishing activities. FAO is also delivering an additional 3,000 rapid response kits to food-insecure areas of the country. In addition, FAO delivered routine vaccinations against endemic diseases to nearly 900,000 livestock between late January and early May, supporting approximately 25,000 households, while also providing emergency veterinary care for more than 765,000 livestock supporting approximately 40,000 households.

With USAID/OFDA support, the Logistics Cluster facilitated the delivery of 144.2 MT of emergency relief supplies to 10 locations in Unity’s acutely food-insecure counties of Koch, Leer, and Mayendit during the month of June. Relief commodities delivered included 127.5 MT of agriculture, food security, and livelihoods items; 6.8 MT of WASH supplies; 4.7 MT of nutrition supplies; 3.1 MT of health items; 1.4 MT of education materials; and 0.7 MT of operational support items.

The UN reported in late May that the current cholera outbreak is the longest, most widespread, and deadliest outbreak recorded in the country since 2011. Between June 18, 2016, and June 25, 2017, health actors in the country recorded more than 11,700 cholera cases and 190 related deaths, representing a case fatality rate of approximately 1.6 percent, exceeding the UN World Health Organization (WHO) emergency threshold of 1 percent.

In response, relief organizations have bolstered coordination, prevention, and response efforts. Recent cholera vaccination campaigns have taken place in Upper Nile’s Aburoc town, Lakes State’s Mingkaman IDP settlement, and the UNMISS PoC site in Unity’s Bentiu town, the UN reports. In Duk and Awerial counties in Jonglei and Lakes states, respectively, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is building and disinfecting latrines, chlorinating boreholes, and distributing hygiene promotion messaging materials to cholera-affected populations. Through the IOM-managed, USAID/OFDA-supported Rapid Response Fund, Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH), in close coordination with CRS, is conducting emergency hygiene promotion campaigns and repairing boreholes, among other activities, to mitigate the spread of the disease.

The unsafe delivery of measles vaccines in early May caused the death of 15 children and the illness of an additional 32 children in Eastern Equatoria’s Kapoeta East County, WHO reports. An investigation led by the GoRSS Ministry of Health, with support from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WHO, found that the vaccination teams did not adhere to WHO-approved immunization safety standards. UNICEF and WHO are coordinating closely with the GoRSS MoH to ensure that local vaccination staff receive appropriate training and adhere to immunization safety protocols to prevent similar incidents in the future.

With USAID/OFDA support, IOM is providing vital emergency health care and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services to IDPs sheltering in the area adjacent to the UMISS PoC site in Wau. Between January and June, IOM provided nearly 92,000 outpatient consultations, screened more than 15,000 children younger than five years of age for malnutrition, and conducted 2,140 antenatal care sessions through its Wau health care clinic. As of June, IOM was also supporting more than 920 individuals per week in Wau with MHPSS resources, including counseling services and targeted support teams; had established support groups for widows, mothers, youth, men, older people, and people with disabilities; and had enrolled GBV survivors and other vulnerable group members in a six-month vocational skills training program focused on baking and tailoring.

On May 25, members of the DART visited the recently-reopened International Medical Corps (IMC) clinic at the UNMISS UN House PoC 3 site in Juba, which hosts an estimated 35,000 IDPs. At the USAID/OFDA-supported clinic, IMC provides comprehensive health care services—including emergency health, nutrition, and reproductive services—to an average of 350 IDPs per day. Despite the renewed provision of health services, protection and WASH challenges remain paramount at the PoC site, partly due to overcrowding. To address these concerns, relief organizations are providing protection services and improving water drainage at the site.

The January 2005 signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the GoS and the southern-based Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) officially ended more than two decades of north–south conflict during which famine, fighting, and disease killed an estimated 2 million people and displaced at least 4.5 million others within Sudan.

The GoRSS declared independence on July 9, 2011, after a referendum on self-determination stipulated in the CPA. Upon independence, USAID designated a new mission in Juba.

On December 15, 2013, clashes erupted in Juba between factions within the GoRSS and quickly spread into a protracted national conflict with Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile representing the primary areas of fighting and displacement. On December 20, 2013, USAID activated a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to lead the USG response to the developing crisis in South Sudan. USAID also stood up a Washington, D.C.-based Response Management Team (RMT) to support the DART.

On August 26, 2015, GoRSS President Salva Kiir signed a peace agreement that the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) and other stakeholders had signed on August 17. Opposition leader Riek Machar returned to Juba and was sworn in as the First Vice President (FVP) on April 26, 2016; GoRSS President Salva Kiir appointed a Transitional Government of National Unity on April 28.

Fighting between SPLA and SPLA-IO forces broke out in Juba on July 7, 2016, displacing thousands of people and prompting FVP Machar to flee. As a result, the U.S. Embassy in Juba ordered the departure of non-emergency USG personnel from South Sudan on July 10. Ongoing heightened tensions persist in the country, and the humanitarian situation remains precarious. On January 5, the U.S. Department of State ended the ordered departure status for the U.S. Embassy in Juba.

Insecurity, landmines, and limited transportation and communication infrastructure restrict humanitarian activities across South Sudan, hindering the delivery of critical assistance to populations in need.

On October 14, 2016, U.S. Ambassador Mary Catherine Phee redeclared a disaster in South Sudan for FY 2017 due to the humanitarian crisis caused by ongoing violent conflict, resultant displacement, restricted humanitarian access, and the disruption of trade, markets, and cultivation activities, which have significantly increased food insecurity and humanitarian needs.

On February 20, the IPC Technical Working Group declared Famine—IPC 5—levels of food insecurity in Unity’s Leer and Mayendit.