Children’s rights organizations raise alarm over intercommunal violence and deteriorating humanitarian situation in South Sudan

Joint NGO Press Statement between World Vision and Save the Children

The UN Security Council meets today to discuss the progress of peace in South Sudan, with the revitalised peace agreement signed now over two years ago in September 2018. Though some armed groups have agreed to cessation of hostilities and a transitional government has been formed, an increase in intercommunal violence, mounting food insecurity and loss of livelihoods are pushing children and their families deeper into life-threatening humanitarian crisis.

The situation in South Sudan remains one of the most complex crises in the world. Over 7.1 million people, including 4.1 million children continue to be in urgent need of life-saving humanitarian aid, a figure that has not substantially changed in the two years since a political recommitment to peace. Instead, the situation is getting worse.

  • The number of intercommunal conflict incidents between 1 January and 31 July 2020 exceed annual totals recorded in 2013-2016 and 2018-2019, and are on track to meet or exceed the annual total recorded in 2017.
  • In Jonglei alone, recent clashes have newly displaced 160,000 people. The UN estimates at least 600 were killed, but admits the number is likely higher. Country-wide, UNMISS reported more civilians killed and injured in the last three months compared to earlier in the year.
  • The scale and severity of acute food insecurity is the highest on record since 2014. Twenty-five conflict and flood affected counties are facing Emergency level of food insecurity (IPC4). FEWNEST warns of famine (IPC5) if humanitarian food assistance cannot reach conflict affected communities in the coming months.
  • Flooding has displaced over 600,000 as of September. Two years of unprecedented flooding without sufficient response has destroyed over 11,000 tons of cereals and 1.4 million livestock, eliminating household food and wealth.[1]
  • The exchange rate reached a record high of 400 SSP for 1 USD on the parallel market as South Sudan’s Central Bank ran out of foreign reserves. This has crippled local supply chains and the ability for families to purchase basic necessities.

Children have been disproportionately affected by the deteriorating situation in South Sudan. Over 100 children were direct victims of intercommunal violence in the last three months but also bear the brunt of the indirect cost, unable to access healthcare, education or food. 350,000 children under five years are suffering from severe and acute malnutrition.[2] The UN reports an increase in child abductions where intercommunal violence has escalated, at the same time as COVID-19 prevention measures severely limited child protection services. Inter-state family tracing and reunification has been significantly affected, with only 5 children able to be reunified. Diversion of funding from child protection programming to COVID-19 response resulted in the end of comprehensive reintegration and psychosocial support services for over 750 girls and boys formerly associated with armed forces and groups.

COVID-19 has had far-reaching and additional negative implications for the rights of children, especially girls. South Sudan is in a continuous planning process to re-open schools. Distance education programming has started but is inaccessible to majority of children due to language barriers or being without network coverage, solar power, radio or mobile phones. Since school closures, local reports have also highlighted an increase in girls becoming pregnant and married early without options to pursue education and at greater risk of experiencing other forms of gender-based violence.

In the face of the quadruple threat of conflict, hunger, flooding and COVID-19, delivery of humanitarian assistance has never been more urgent to save lives, but efforts are being severely hampered by the deteriorating security situation. Access constraints increased 22% between April – June 2020, compared to the same period last year. As recently as July 13, two aid workers providing health services were killed, bringing the total number of humanitarian workers killed in South Sudan to 122 since the 2013 conflict began. Fighting in Jonglei alone resulted in the relocation of 144 humanitarian workers and 20 looting incidents were recorded, compared to just 1 incident in 2019.

Some progress has been made towards political reconciliation in South Sudan. This has not yet delivered a peace dividend for its people though. Instead the deteriorating humanitarian situation for South Sudanese children and their families raises significant alarm and demands urgent international action.

  • The UN Security Council should ensure the humanitarian situation in South Sudan is prioritised and take actions that place pressure on the Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity to reduce violence and better facilitate humanitarian and development assistance. The UN Security Council must also prioritize and adequately resource the UNMISS protection of civilians, gender and child protection mandates, including dedicated protection, child protection and gender expertise in the Mission.
  • Donors should full fund the South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan, currently only 32% funded, ensuring protection and essential services for children are prioritised;
  • Donors and partners must urgently address food insecurity, not only through delivery of food assistance to the most vulnerable, but through the scaling of strategies and investments in recovery or improvement of agricultural production, livestock recovery and protection, and road infrastructure to meet markets;
  • Donors, international financial institutions and partners should urgently commit multi-year, flexible development assistance in line with Grand Bargain commitments to address chronic gaps in the infrastructure, systems and services necessary to deliver basic services, be responsive to shocks, and maximise opportunities to realise a peace dividend where intercommunal violence is not prohibitive;
  • The UN, donors and partners must take actions that more effectively work with South Sudan’s government structures to address macroeconomic challenges, strengthen good governance ensuring the inclusion of women, and support the police and judicial sector to establish rule of law particularly outside of the capital, while simultaneously placing greater pressure on and pushing for more accountability from political leaders to quell violence in a manner respectful of international law, facilitate humanitarian access, reduce corruption and adopt strategies that promote recovery and development.


For further information or to organise and interview please contact:

Cecil Laguardia, Communications Manager, World Vision South Sudan at mobile #+211922287768 or email

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organisation dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities to reach their full potential by tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit or follow us on Twitter @WorldVision

[1] Note by the UN Secretariat to Members of the Security Council. Delivered 4 September 2020.

[2] Ibid.