The need for foreign aid to South Sudan is quickly growing. Not only is South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis worsening but extreme flooding, mass famine, economic troubles and aid cuts combine to exacerbate poverty and instability. As the Russia-Ukraine war continues, South Sudan struggles as donors scale back their donations and redirect their foreign assistance budgets to aid Ukraine.
Violence and Political Unrest
The political situation in South Sudan is shaky and has led to violence and insecurity among the South Sudanese people. For context, South Sudan voted to secede from Sudan and became an independent state in 2011. However, shortly after, in 2013, civil war broke out due to a conflict between South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir, Sudan People’s Liberation Army in-Opposition (SPLA-IO) and “other armed groups and affiliated militias.” The warring parties reached a peace agreement in 2015, but that quickly fell apart in 2016. In 2018, Kiir and Riek Machar, former leaders of the SPLA-IO, signed a peace accord in hopes of resolution.
The peace accord led to the division of power in a unity government officially inaugurated in February 2020, with Kiir as president and Machar as the first vice president. In August 2022, the unity government decided to extend by two years the post-civil war “transitional period,” which the government previously agreed would end in 2022. “Due to the lack of progress on many provisions of the peace agreement,” the transitional period will end in 2023, Africanews reports.
The need for foreign aid in South Sudan is critical because the general violence may have lessened, but the prevalence of other atrocities has risen. For example, United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) found a “218[%] increase in conflict-related sexual violence” at the end of the second quarter of 2022.
In 2021, UNMISS documented 440 civilian murders and 64 rapes in Western Equatoria committed by the SPLA-IO and the military. South Sudan has held no perpetrators accountable and some senior officials in the government are advocating against accountability for various crimes, including ones committed by rebel groups and government authorities.
Flooding and Extreme Famine
The need for foreign aid to South Sudan is also high due to recurring mass flooding and extreme famine. According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in 2022, the flooding impacted around 1 million people. Bearing in mind that South Sudan has a population of about 12.4 million people, this statistic means flooding has affected around 8% of the country’s total population.
A World Food Programme (WFP) report published in July 2022 reveals the extent of the extreme famine within South Sudan. Of the population of 12.4 million, around 7.7 million people are enduring severe food insecurity. This equates to more than 60% of the population struggling to meet their food needs. The report also reveals that more than “one-third of the counties in South Sudan have Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates that exceed the emergency threshold of 15[%].”
Economic Woes and Aid Cuts
In areas such as Warrap, locals say the price of basic goods has risen by 50% due to the “war in Ukraine as well as local currency depreciation and other supply chain disruptions.” In an October 2022 interview with The New Humanitarian, Agany Monychol, a doctor who runs a hospital in Tonj, said malnutrition cases are now twice as prevalent due to the rising prices of food.
The New Humanitarian also notes that aid cuts are not just a result of donor reallocations to Ukraine but also stem from a distrust of the South Sudanese government due to corrupt spending.
In June 2022, the WFP suspended aid to 1.7 million South Sudanese people due to “critical funding shortages.” Donor funding for Monychol’s hospital had also been reduced by 30%, leading to staff cuts and patients struggling without medicine.
Action to Assist South Sudan
The humanitarian crisis and growing poverty rates stem from a combination of factors, which is why foreign aid to South Sudan is crucial. According to the latest official World Bank estimates from 2016, 82% of South Sudanese people live under the national poverty line, giving South Sudan a first-place ranking for the highest poverty rates out of the World Bank’s recorded list of country-specific poverty estimates.
Despite funding shortfalls, the WFP provided 4 million people in South Sudan with food aid between January 2022 and June 2022. The U.S. is also committed to providing aid to South Sudan. According to the Department of State’s website, the U.S. is the top-ranking provider of foreign aid to South Sudan. From January 2022 to August 2022, the U.S. supplied South Sudan with more than $371 million worth of humanitarian aid.
As the youngest nation in the world, it will take time for the government of South Sudan to address issues relating to poverty while focusing on establishing political stability to maintain peace. Until then, it is important to continue to provide foreign aid to South Sudan in order to address the humanitarian crisis.
– Matthew Wikfors