FAQs: Conflict in South Sudan and the risks to children

Conflict in South Sudan has created a hunger crisis, leaving one-third of the population in need of immediate aid. Children are most at risk for malnutrition, and they’re also susceptible to armed recruitment and disease. Read our FAQs to learn more.

By Kathryn Reid, World Vision U.S.
Published June 17, 2014 at 08:30am PDT

Since December, violent conflict in South Sudan has killed thousands and driven more than 1.4 million South Sudanese from their homes.

International humanitarian groups say that if treatment for malnutrition is not scaled up immediately, a quarter of a million children will be severely malnourished by the end of the year, and 50,000 children under 5 may die.

As violence escalates, more and more children are witnesses or victims of attacks. With little to keep them preoccupied, children are also vulnerable to armed recruitment by government or militia forces.

Find the answers to more frequently asked questions below.

What is the current humanitarian situation in South Sudan?

  • 4 million people are in need of food aid.
  • 1.4 million have fled their homes. More than 1 million of them — including about 500,000 children — are internally displaced; the rest are refugees in nearby countries.
  • Internally displaced people (IDPs) live in overcrowded camps, putting a severe strain on the food, water, healthcare, shelter, and sanitation services available.
  • More than 3,800 children have been registered as orphaned or separated from their parents since the conflict began.

Why is hunger a growing problem in South Sudan?

Conflict is the main reason behind the current crisis, including increased levels of hunger. Armed opposition groups are fighting government troops in several states.

Fighting began last December when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy, Riek Machar, of a coup attempt. Since then, 1.4 million people — half of them children — fled their homes, abandoning crops and livestock. Markets were destroyed, trade disrupted, and food aid supplies looted.

Conflict and insecurity make it difficult for humanitarian organizations to distribute food. As the rainy season grips South Sudan, cutting off road transportation to more than 60 percent of the nation, the situation worsens. If displaced people are unable to go home to plant crops and maintain their livestock, they will not have sufficient food or income to feed their families.

What other threats are children facing?

Many children can’t go to school, and there is little for them to do in displacement camps. More than 3,800 children are orphaned or separated from their families and in need of care and protection.

Extreme poverty and a history of exposure to conflict make children vulnerable to recruitment as soldiers. The U.N. children’s agency estimates there are 9,000 child soldiers in South Sudan.

There are also reports of sexual exploitation and abuse of children.

Children need safety, healthy activities, opportunities to learn, and psychosocial support so they can recover from overwhelming experiences.

What is life like for people displaced by the conflict?

Fearful of further attacks, many internally displaced people live in overcrowded camps, including more than 95,000 people who live in U.N.-controlled settlements. They depend on organizations like World Vision for food, shelter, water, sanitation services, and healthcare.

More than 360,000 South Sudanese live in refugee camps in Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan, and Kenya. 

Heavy seasonal rains have led to flooding, so conditions are deteriorating.

In addition to standing water, IDPs must cope with overloaded drinking water and sanitation systems that heighten the threat of diseases. A cholera outbreak in Juba, the capital city, is at emergency levels and spreading to other areas.

How is World Vision responding in South Sudan?

More than 170,000 people have benefited from World Vision assistance in South Sudan, including:

  • Emergency food supplies for families
  • Special nutrition treatment for malnourished children and for pregnant and lactating women
  • Clean water, hygiene kits, sanitation facilities, and training on cholera prevention
  • Shelter items, mosquito nets, blankets, and other household goods
  • Child-Friendly Spaces for healthy play, learning, protection, and activities that help children avoid recruitment into armed groups
  • Family tracing and reunification for unaccompanied children

The organization also provides assistance to South Sudan refugees in Ethiopia and Kenya.

Learn more

How you can respond

  • Pray for children and families affected by the fighting in South Sudan, especially for children who are hungry and vulnerable to disease and violence. Pray that the peace process would bring a permanent end to the hostilities and that humanitarian organizations like World Vision would be able to meet the needs of displaced people. Check out our South Sudan prayer guide at World Vision magazine.
  • Make a one-time donation to help meet the needs of vulnerable children and families in South Sudan. Your gift will help provide basic food and nutrition supplies, as well as healthcare, clean water, shelter, and protection interventions for families in need.


  • Violent conflict in South Sudan has killed thousands and driven more than 1.4 million people from their homes.
  • Displaced South Sudanese, especially children, are threatened by malnutrition, disease, and violence.
  • World Vision is assisting more than 170,000 South Sudanese with provisions of emergency food, clean water and sanitation, shelter, Child-Friendly Spaces, and more.

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