Crisis in
South Sudan

South Sudan’s government signed a fragile peace accord in September 2018 in an effort to end the country’s brutal six-year civil war. Nonetheless, violence and humanitarian conditions in the world’s youngest country continue to deteriorate. Civilians continue to be subject to violence, displacement and egregious human rights violations, while attacks on humanitarian workers and healthcare workers remain a risk. As a direct result of the war, the fragile peace and ongoing instability, millions of people are at-risk of starvation. Only international humanitarian assistance reduces the risk of widespread famine.

Hunger Risk


of South Sudan’s population faces severe hunger

Internal Displacement

1.5 million

South Sudanese are displaced inside their own country


2.2 million

South Sudanese have sought refuge outside their homeland, mainly in neighboring countries

60 MINUTES: Fighting famine in war-torn South Sudan

Go behind the scenes as 60 Minutes reports from a stabilization center in South Sudan, where doctors are fighting to save lives.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What was the civil war about?

    Long-simmering tensions between two major political groups broke into open warfare in December 2013. Ethnic differences that tend to parallel the political divide complicate efforts to achieve any meaningful, lasting reconciliation. The majority of the president’s followers belong to South Sudan’s majority Dinka ethnic group while the former vice president’s supporters are Nuer, the second largest of the country’s 60-odd ethnic groups.

  • What’s being done to stop the fighting?

    Repeated internationally-led efforts to broker a lasting peace agreement have failed to end the fighting. The United Nations has also deployed 7,500 troops on the ground to protect the civilian population from the fighting. In September 2018, President Salva Kiir entered into a peace accord that would see him return as Vice President, in a move to end the country’s brutal civil war. Today, commitment to forming a transitional government remains strong despite numerous setbacks.

  • What is the toll of the conflict in human terms?

    The civil war decimated whatever development gains the country made since it became the world’s youngest nation in 2011. The economy has collapsed, with basic food staples now out-of-reach for many South Sudanese, while families in rural areas have not been able to plant their crops because of fighting. This has left more than 60% of the population without enough to eat.  The fighting has also uprooted nearly four million South Sudanese from their homes. Half of them are displaced inside the country.

  • What is the humanitarian response to the crisis and what specifically is International Medical Corps doing?

    International Medical Corps works with the Government of South Sudan to strengthen local health care capacity in 5 of the country’s 11 states and deliver health services to nearly half a million South Sudanese. Through 87 health facilities in urban and rural areas, International Medical Corps provides basic health care and integrated service provision, from preventative care to emergency surgery. We also run programs in nutrition, gender-based violence and mental health.

Help Save Lives on the Ground

The Challenges


Four million people have been displaced since the civil war began in December 2013


Over seven million people in South Sudan are severely food insecure


Tens of thousands are estimated to have lost their lives in the civil war

Our Response

International Medical Corps began working in the conflict-ridden region of southern Sudan in 1994, 17 years before a 2011 national referendum led to Sudan’s 11 southern-most states becoming the independent state of South Sudan. The peace that accompanied independence was short-lived and armed conflict broke out again in December 2013, claiming tens of thousands of lives in the years since. Today, South Sudan’s food security situation remains desperate, with more than seven million people at risk of starvation, intensifying the potential for disease.


International Medical Corps is working to prevent and respond to gender-based violence (GBV) in Western Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei. This includes case management services using a survivor-centered approach, counseling and psychosocial support to survivors of GBV. We also run women-and girls-friendly spaces in civilian protection of zones, known as PoCs, in Wau and Malakal, as well as in communities in the counties of Akobo, Nyal, Aburoc, Malakal and Wau, where women and girls can socialize, make handicrafts and receive empowering educative sessions on issues such as GBV, reproductive health, protection and safety. We offer livelihoods activities to vulnerable women and implement prevention measures through discussions and outreach shaped to engage men and empower community members to fight GBV and take responsibility for their own safety.

Mental Health and Psychosocial Support

With depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and substance abuse are growing issues among conflict-affected populations in South Sudan, International Medical Corps provides pharmacological and psychosocial support services to those in need in three conflict affected states—Upper Nile, Jonglei and Central Equatoria. We also participate in national mental health networks and working groups to build capacity and respond to the growing demand for mental health services.


In some of areas of South Sudan where International Medical Corps works, more than one-third of children under 5 are affected by chronic or acute malnutrition, which can cause moderate or severe stunting. As agro-pastoralists, the population experiences a hunger gap during the dry season, which especially impacts women and children. To address this issue, we have implemented a successful program using the Community-Based Management of Acute Malnutrition model. This approach includes only minimal inpatient care for severely malnourished children with complications, decreasing their exposure to other diseases without complications to decrease their recovery time

Health Development and Support

International Medical Corps provides basic primary health care across Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Western Bahr el Ghazal and Unity States. In displacement camps, known as protection of civilian (PoC) sites, in Juba and Malakal, International Medical Corps runs comprehensive health facilities that offer higher level care, including surgery. In addition, we support Akobo County Hospital located in a volatile area near the country’s eastern border with Ethiopia. Our primary health services in South Sudan include maternal and child health together with antenatal and postnatal care, family planning and emergency obstetric care. We provide specialized services for high-risk pregnancies, mental health issues and HIV/AIDS and support hospitals to increase capacity.

We also offer disease prevention and treatment, including integrated case management for HIV/AIDS, bed net distribution and malaria treatment, as well as community-based management of acute malnutrition.

Health System Strengthening

South Sudan has fewer than 200 doctors to serve its population of 9 million. To increase access to care, International Medical Corps works to build the capacity of South Sudan’s health system through training programs that target health professionals and key community members. This includes training men and women to become midwives by supporting midwifery schools across South Sudan.

A City Forced to Take Refuge: Near constant fighting and violence has forced the entire population of Malakal, South Sudan to live in a UN camp

The city of Malakal’s entire population of 46,000 people has taken refuge in a nearby United Nations camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) in order to escape fighting between warring factions in South Sudan’s civil war that sputters on despite a peace agreement signed more than a year ago.


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