Two boys look out at their flooded school in Bentiu, Unity State, South Sudan, an area that suffered extensive flooding, an impact of climate change.
Emergency Response

South Sudan Sinks Deeper into Crisis

UNICEF appeals for support to help step up its emergency response amid rising child malnutrition, disease outbreaks and spillover from the war in Sudan.

UNICEF is accelerating humanitarian relief efforts in South Sudan as the country sinks deeper into its worst crisis since declaring independence in 2011.

Children are most affected by the rapidly deteriorating conditions. Conflict in neighboring Sudan, persistent and unprecedented flooding and soaring food prices are pushing families to the brink. 

Refugees from the war in Sudan receive assistance at a transit site in Roriak, Unity State, South Sudan.
UNICEF is appealing for more support from donors to meet rapidly increasing humanitarian needs in South Sudan due in part to a massive influx of refugees from the war in Sudan. Some 300,000 women and children have come to South Sudan from Sudan in recent months. UNICEF works alongside partners to provide health care, nutrition, safe water, education and protection. © UNICEF/UNI423995/

UNICEF is reporting alarming increases in malnutrition and preventable diseases, including a massive measles outbreak. An estimated 42 percent of people have no access to safe water, and 2.8 million children are out of school, increasing their exploitation risks.

A record number of people in South Sudan need immediate assistance — including 5 million children

A record number of people — 9 million — are in need of immediate assistance, including 5 million children.

Among them are those who have been internally displaced by severe flooding and sporadic violence and some 300,000 refugees fleeing the war in Sudan. Most Sudanese refugees are women and children, and half of the children are school-aged.

UNICEF is concerned there could be more flooding that then triggers more disease, namely malaria and cholera/acute watery diarrhea — an especially dangerous condition for a malnourished child. 

Children and mothers fleeing conflict in Sudan receive UNICEF assistance at a transit point in Roriak, Unity State, South Sudan.
Some children and families fleeing conflict in Sudan are coming to Roriak, Unity State, South Sudan, where UNICEF is reaching them with emergency assistance. South Sudan was already contending with multiple crises before violence erupted in Sudan in April 2023. The impacts of that war are making South Sudan's problems worse. © UNICEF/UN0851496/

With hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese already internally displaced due to other conflicts, flooding and food insecurity, many northern border areas receiving Sudanese refugees were already under stress before the Sudan conflict broke out last April, UNICEF Emergency Specialist Emma Tuck reported. Local markets have suffered from the loss of trade routes from Sudan. Prices of basic commodities have soared. 

Alongside other UN agencies and partners, UNICEF is mobilizing more support — including lifesaving nutrition supplies — to meet the immediate needs of children and families arriving in Upper Nile and Unity States. 

A mother with her newborn, delivered at Malakal Teaching Hospital, a UNICEF-supported health facility in Upper Nile State, South Sudan.
A mother with her newborn at Malakal Teaching Hospital in South Sudan's Upper Nile State. The hospital was destroyed during the 2013 civil war but is now operational and providing essential services with UNICEF's support. An influx of returnees and refugees from neighboring Sudan is adding additional strain on the local health system. UNICEF is responding to the situation, providing supplies and delivering health, nutrition and child protection services to those fleeing the conflict, but needs more support to fund these critical interventions. © UNICEF South Sudan / Garang Abraham Malak

UNICEF teams have been working all across South Sudan to:

  • identify and treat children suffering from severe acute malnutrition
  • vaccinate children against preventable diseases including measles
  • install safe water supply points and distribute hygiene kits
  • provide emergency sanitation facilities for displaced families living in camps
  • strengthen systems to protect children against gender-based violence and sexual exploitation
  • reunite unaccompanied and separated children with their families
  • support teachers with incentives and training, provide learning materials and establish safe places where children can get back to learning 
  • provide mental health and psychosocial support to children and caregivers
  • promote innovations that increase program efficiency and impact and help build climate resilience

But more funding is needed so that UNICEF can expand these interventions near the border and in other critical parts of the country — and avert catastrophe.

Motorcycles donated to health workers in South Sudan will help improve efficiency of vaccine delivery for routine child immunizations.
Ensuring every child is immunized against preventable diseases remains a challenge in South Sudan — especially now with large numbers of unvaccinated children arriving from Sudan. Measles cases are on the rise. With funding from the government of Canada, UNICEF recently procured 80 motorcycles to provide to health workers across the country, for more efficient vaccine delivery and monitoring, and service supervision. "This equipment signifies our shared dedication to enhancing health care in South Sudan," said Hamida Lasseko, the UNICEF Representative in South Sudan. ©UNICEF/Hurskin

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TOP PHOTO: On March 2, 2023, in Bentiu, Unity State, South Sudan, two boys look out over vast floodwaters at their submerged school. Extensive flooding has affected thousands of people across the state, with many having to flee their homes. © UNICEF/UNI424890/Naftalin