Boy in IDP camp, Twic, Warrup State, South Sudan.

South Sudan: Conflict, hunger, and the threats to children

Conflict broke out in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, two days before the nation’s fifth anniversary of independence on July 9, 2016, displacing another 36,000 people. The volatile situation threatens to further disrupt aid deliveries throughout the country where 4.8 million people are experiencing food shortages.

Fast facts

  • Violent conflict in South Sudan has killed tens of thousands and driven more than 2.4 million people from their homes.
  • About 1.7 million people in South Sudan are displaced; half of them are children.
  • More than 720,000 have fled South Sudan for neighboring countries.
  • Some 4.8 million South Sudanese are in need of food aid.
  • Internally displaced people (IDPs) live in overcrowded camps, putting a severe strain on the food, water, healthcare, shelter, and sanitation services available.
  • In 2015, World Vision assisted 1.3 million people in South Sudan with food and nutrition, clean water and sanitation, household goods, education, and child protection.
south sudan map

A country in crisis

Since December 2013, violent conflict in South Sudan has killed tens of thousands and driven more than 2 million South Sudanese from their homes.

About 1.7 million people are displaced within the country, including 187,000 civilians who have sought shelter in U.N. bases. A fragile peace agreement signed in August 2015 has yet to eliminate fighting.

The most recent analysis of food security shows that for 4.8 million people in South Sudan, lack of food is at a crisis level. Displaced families have been unable to farm and feed livestock. Food prices have risen significantly, and aid groups have been unable to deliver relief goods in remote, contested areas.

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

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.

Displaced families have been unable to farm and feed livestock. Food prices have risen significantly, and aid groups have been unable to deliver relief goods in remote, contested areas.

Child refugees recount fighting in South Sudan

As violence has escalated in South Sudan, more and more children are witnesses or victims of attacks. Listen to their stories.

What other threats are children facing?

Many children can’t go to school, and there is little for them to do in displacement camps. Extreme poverty and a history of exposure to conflict make children vulnerable to recruitment as soldiers. The U.N. children’s agency estimates that as many as 16,000 children have been recruited as child soldiers in the conflict.

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 187,000 people who sought protection in U.N.-controlled settlements. They depend on organizations like World Vision for food, shelter, water, sanitation services, and healthcare.

More than 720,000 South Sudanese live in refugee camps in Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan, and Kenya. So far, relief agencies have received less than 10 percent of the funding they need to meet refugees’ needs.

A refugee girl in an IDP camp in South Sudan
A girl peers out of her shelter at the Adany camp for internally displaced people in Twic County, Warrap State, South Sudan. (©2015 Jon Warren/World Vision)

How is World Vision responding to the crisis in South Sudan?

In 2015, 1.3 million South Sudanese, including more than 630,000 children, benefited from World Vision aid, which includes:

  • Emergency food supplies for families
  • Special nutrition treatment for malnourished children and for pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • Support for food security and livelihoods, including seeds, training, livestock, and livestock vaccinations
  • 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
  • We also provide assistance to South Sudan refugees in Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya.

Help children affected by conflict in South Sudan.

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