The conflict, which continues today, has devastated the country, resulting in tens of thousands of civilian deaths, and the displacement of 4 million people, 1.9 million of which are internally displaced and another 2 million who fled to neighboring countries. The chaos threatens the world’s youngest country with collapse and regional instability. Armed violence and insecurity have resulted in a near-total breakdown of social services, resulting in increasing rates of disease-related sickness and morbidity, and severely disrupted markets and trade, particularly in the agricultural sector, which 85 percent of the working population relies on for income.
Declining oil production and spiraling public deficits have led to a macroeconomic collapse, a significant decline in GDP and have been accompanied by hyperinflation and increased extreme poverty (accounting for 65.9 percent of the population). As a direct result of conflict, over 6 million people—over half of South Sudan’s population of 11 million—were estimated to be severely food insecure as of June 2017, with 1.7 million in IPC Level 4 (emergency) and approximately 45,000 people in IPC Level 5 (famine).
5 World Bank. Systemic Country Diagnostic for South Sudan. October 2015. Despite high levels of humanitarian assistance, which averted famine conditions from developing in certain areas, the extent and severity of food insecurity has increased between 20-50 percent from 2012-2016.
As in Yemen, Somalia and north-east Nigeria, the current high risk of famine in South Sudan is attributable primarily to the ongoing conflict and the massive population displacement that it has generated. Although the country is richly endowed in natural resources, with abundant rainfall, forests, fertile soils, water availability, irrigable land and significant oil reserves, this potential has historically remained untapped due to decades of recurrent conflict and lack of meaningful investment in institution-building and socioeconomic development.5 The fragility of South Sudan’s institutions, infrastructure and socioeconomic systems at independence in 2011 meant that there was very little capacity to withstand the impact of the conflict following 2013, which explains the extent and severity of the impact on the population today.