The protracted conflict in South Sudan has had a profound impact on the lives of children and their communities. Children continue to face risks of food insecurity, malnutrition, disease, forced recruitment into armed forces and armed groups, displacement, and loss of education opportunities.
Furthermore, the floods during 2019-2020 exacerbated the situation, and the lack of safe drinking water, inadequate excretal disposal, and poor hygiene practices leaves a big proportion of the population at risk of preventable vector/waterborne and WASH related diseases.
Although multisectoral approaches are frequently promoted and highly encouraged by nutrition actors in South Sudan, multisectoral and long-term programmes are not designed nationally. This is necessary to systematically reduce the prevalence of undernutrition. Furthermore, the absence of nutrition and WASH policies has an impact on local realities, such as interventions undertaken in the communities.
Overall, the situation in the country has deteriorated further, as reflected in the South Sudan Humanitarian Needs Overview of 2021. It stated that over the past five years, nutrition and WASH needs have continued to rise, even after the 2018 peace agreement. However, the livelihood and food assistance support resources have not increased, resulting in straining of the already scarce resources.
From an estimated total population of 11 million people, almost 2 million people are anticipated to suffer from acute malnutrition, of which 1.4 million are children. An estimated 7.7 million people were expected to experience acute food insecurity and worse in 2021. These numbers have increased by 15%, compared to the 6.7 million people who were acutely food insecure in 2020.
The South Sudan Humanitarian Needs Overview 2021 revealed that 64% of people across the country rely on either unimproved or surface water sources. This influences how food is prepared and utilised in the body. Ease of access to markets and access to health care facilities impact how productive people are, and how prone they are to disease or illness.
The health and wellbeing of an estimated 4.9 million South Sudanese was anticipated to be impacted negatively by the weakened health system in 2021. This equates to a 36% increase from the 3.6 million people in 2020. Therefore, the drivers of undernutrition in South Sudan were mainly the ongoing conflict, flooding, economic crisis, declined crop production (poor quality and diversity of food), diseases (36% of children under five), pests, and an underdeveloped health care system.