What’s going on in South Sudan?

February 15, 2017
Written by Kristin Myers
Photo by Kieran McConville

It’s hard to ignore the numbers: more than 50,000 killed, more than three million forced to flee their homes, and millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. It’s stunning to observe South Sudan’s decline from an American foreign-policy success story to a country on the verge of collapse, so soon after its 2011 independence — and largely out of the spotlight.

South Sudan is right now in the grip of a food crisis that threatens millions of lives. The UN and South Sudan government have declared famine in two counties of Unity state in the north of the country, and it’s feared that as many as five million people will struggle to have enough to eat by July. In Northern Bahr el Ghazal, one of the country’s most vulnerable areas, 59% of the population is already facing crisis- or emergency-level food shortages.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization characterized South Sudan’s food struggles as “unprecedented,” as 40% of the country’s population is in urgent need of assistance.

Infographic about the impacts of the civil war

The inconsistent and unreliable access to food has caused malnutrition rates to skyrocket. UNICEF predicts that this year more than a quarter of a million children will be affected by severe acute malnutrition — the most extreme and life-threatening form of hunger.

The country already had few health facilities, but renewed violence and displacement has forced many of them to close. For those that remain open, there is simply not enough money for basic medicines and staff. Families struggle to reach the nearest open clinic, especially during the rainy season when the ground turns to swamp and many areas are cut off entirely.

Without help, thousands of South Sudanese people could die in the months ahead.


You can help families in need of urgent food assistance in and around South Sudan:


South Sudan crisis in 63 seconds

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