South Sudan

Conflict + displacement + hunger: five years of humanitarian crisis

The conflict in South Sudan enters its fifth year in 2018, and despite the efforts of humanitarian organisations like CARE, the humanitarian crisis continues to intensify.

7 million people in South Sudan are in need of assistance and protection, and a further 2 million South Sudanese have fled the country and are living as refugees in neighbouring countries.

Severe food insecurity continues to increase for the fifth consecutive year and the number of people suffering from extreme hunger has risen to 6 million – the highest number ever recorded in the country.

The nearly 2 million people who are displaced within South Sudan due to the conflict, and the host communities where they seek safety, are the most affected. Valentina Mirza, Assistance Country Director for CARE South Sudan, says:

People that fled to the Protection of Civilian sites last year are now returning home to burnt houses in southern Unity, uncultivated fields and limited health services. They have nothing to feed their families with, except water lilies in the swamps where they collect water from.

She adds: “A woman we talked to had just returned from a seven day trip on foot to receive food rations for her family. The small silver lining is that that humanitarian agencies can from now on access her village with food assistance and agricultural inputs. So she will be able to cultivate in the upcoming season to feed her family.”

Watch Nyamuch, a mother in South Sudan, tell the heartbreaking story of how mothers like her struggle to find enough food for their children - and see how CARE is responding through our mobile health clinics which provide emergency nutrition to mothers and babies:

The crisis in brief

  • Over the past year, the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan has deepened and spread, affecting people in areas previously considered stable and exhausting the coping capacity of those already impacted.
  • 7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection across the country as a result of armed conflict, inter-communal violence, economic crisis, disease outbreaks and climatic shocks.
  • Acute malnutrition remains a major public health emergency. Out of 23 counties with recent data, 14 have Global Acute Malnutrition at or above 15% of the population.
  • 6 million people (half of the national population) are estimated to be severely food insecure. The magnitude of the food crisis is unprecedented.
  • 450,000 South Sudanese people have fled to Sudan, and more than 1 million South Sudanese people are living as refugees in Uganda.

What we are doing

CARE’s emergency response has so far directly assisted nearly 600,000 people in four of the worst affected states, with emergency nutrition, water, sanitation, health, hygiene, education and protection support. We also support over 40 health facilities in Unity and Upper Nile States.

Read the latest updates

Click here to read the latest stories from CARE’s emergency response in South Sudan.


Years of brutal civil war in South Sudan has left tens of thousands of people dead and forced millions of people from their homes. More than a million people have fled to neighbouring countries and at least 1.6 million people are internally displaced, most of them living in unregulated and insecure camps with no means of support. Following outbreaks of fierce fighting in late 2016, Fred McCray, CARE’s Country Director in South Sudan, said:

Previously peaceful areas have now plunged into violence, leaving fields abandoned, houses burnt, assets looted. Seeds and tools have been destroyed and farmers are too scared to plough their fields or sell products at the markets. Many people have fled their homes, leaving productive lands fallow. This desolate state of survival has become the new normal for millions of families in South Sudan.

Valentina Mirza, Assistant Country Director for CARE South Sudan, said:

The food crisis is rapidly deteriorating in new areas of the country where violence is breaking out and the people who are starving have not been accessible due to the conflict. It’s the unfortunate recipe for famine, and urgent humanitarian assistance must be allowed to avert more catastrophe from spreading across the country. Sadly these senseless deaths and human suffering will only continue, unless this merciless conflict is finally brought to an end.

Our response

CARE is implementing emergency response programs in Unity, Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei and Upper Nile regions - the most conflict-affected and hardest-to-reach areas of South Sudan. As at December 2017, we have helped more than 560,000 people with support including:

  • food security and livelihood support
  • nutrition treatment for children with acute malnutrition
  • mobile clinic services
  • curative health services
  • gender-based violence awareness messaging and psychosocial support for affected people
  • conflict mitigation and resolution through peace committees.

While much of the humanitarian response has been centred around Protection of Civilian sites, currently housing around 100,000 people, the majority of South Sudanese affected by the conflict live in areas cut off by fighting, seasonal flooding or poor infrastructure. In Unity state, CARE teams travel on foot to vaccinate children against polio and measles, and deliver life saving drugs and nutrition supplies. In Jonglei, CARE provides assistance in communities hosting other South Sudanese people who have fled from fighting. 

CARE is also supporting South Sudanese refugees in Sudan and Uganda, including providing assistance to refugees from South Sudan in Rhino camp.