Violence & Famine in South Sudan


Emergency Update

In South Sudan, 100,000 people are experiencing famine and one million more are on the brink of starvation after more than three years of a brutal civil war that has uprooted millions from their homes. Violence has prevented families from planting their crops for three planting seasons, leaving them with nothing to harvest. At the same time, the cost of basic food staples has skyrocketed while the value of the South Sudanese pound has plummeted. The fighting has also left some areas completely inaccessible to humanitarian organizations to deliver life-saving relief.

The two areas experiencing famine—Leer and Mayendit counties—are both in Unity State, which has been a flashpoint throughout the war. In Leer, our field teams estimate that as many as 70% of the population could be hiding in the bush and river islands—many of them unable to escape because of ongoing instability. At the same time, the area has been completely cut off from receiving humanitarian assistance.

International Medical Corps is the only health organization working in Nyal, a county in Unity State not far from the areas where famine was declared that is seeing an influx of people fleeing Leer. Our teams are making primary and reproductive health, gender-based violence, and nutrition services to an estimated 80,000 people—many of them internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Leer. This includes a static clinic in Nyal town, where many people from Leer are staying with families, and mobile clinics to reach an additional 20,000 Leer IDPs. We also have trained community health workers in Leer county on identifying, preventing, and referring malnutrition cases as well as other common diseases. International Medical Corps is working in seven of the country’s 11 states, providing health care, nutrition services, and other services to hundreds of thousands of people in South Sudan. This includes working in 77 health facilities and running a stabilization center that provides 24-hour care for severely malnourished children with medical complications in the displacement camp in Juba.

South Sudan Overview

South Sudan erupted into civil war in December 2013 that has forced more than 3 million people from their homes and left millions facing severe food insecurity. In July 2016, violence broke out in Juba after a peace agreement was signed, leaving thousands more in need of humanitarian assistance. While security has improved in Juba, violence continues to flare up across the country, signaling the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan will deepen in 2017. International Medical Corps has been in South Sudan since 1994 and is currently working to ensure people have access to clean drinking water, health care, psychological support, protection services, and nutrition.


  • The civil war that began in December of 2013 has forced an estimated 3 million South Sudanese from their homes. More than 1.8 million of them are displaced inside South Sudan. Another 1.3 million have fled to neighboring countries.
  • In February 2017, famine was declared in two counties of Unity state in South Sudan, according to an announcement by the South Sudan government and three UN agencies
  • More than 100,000 people in Unity state are experiencing famine.
  • An estimated 4.8 million people were facing severe food insecurity in July 2016. This number is only expected to rise in 2017.
  • International Medical Corps works in five states across South Sudan, including 77 health facilities. across seven states in South Sudan. We reached more than 684,000 people in 2016–approximately 35 percent of whom were children under five.

Famine in South Sudan

Go behind the scenes as 60 Minutes reports from an International Medical Corps stabilization center in South Sudan, where doctors are fighting to save lives during a brutal famine.

Humanitarian Team Delivers Three Babies as Fighting Raged Around Them



Our programs include a broad range of services delivered across seven states:

These services include:

Primary and Secondary Health Care

Access to health care in South Sudan is among the most difficult in the world due to the ongoing conflict and underdevelopment. Poor health care affects the most vulnerable populations, such as children, women, and the elderly. International Medical Corps provides basic health care and integrated service provision, from preventative care to emergency surgery. This also includes case management for HIV/AIDS, bed net distribution, and malaria treatment. Our primary and secondary health care services are provided in Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Upper Nile, Western Bahr el Ghazal, and Unity states.

Maternal and Child Health

South Sudan has one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. International Medical Corps focuses on improving the health of women and their children through the high-impact services we implement in primary health clinics. We also provide emergency obstetric care and support several midwifery training programs. Our maternal and child health services are implemented in Central Equatoria, Upper Nile, Western Bahr El Ghazal, Unity, and Jonglei States.


High staple food prices, disruptions to livestock and crop production, currency devaluation, limited humanitarian access, and conflict-related displacement are responsible for the high levels of food insecurity throughout South Sudan. In response, International Medical Corps has expanded nutrition programs in hard-to-reach areas. These programs include provisions of emergency food supplies and outpatient and inpatient treatment for acute malnutrition. Our nutrition programs are currently implemented in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Central Equatoria, and Western Bahr-el Ghazal states.

Capacity Building and Training

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. International Medical Corps supports the Juba College of Nursing and Midwifery, Nursing and Midwifery College in Kajo-Keji, and Health Science Institute in Wau. In addition, the organization works with the state hospital in Western Bahr el Ghazal.

Mental Health

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

Gender-based Violence

Violence against women endangers the health, well-being, and future success of women and girls. It is an endemic problem in South Sudan, exacerbated by ongoing conflict and chronic displacement. In response, International Medical Corps began implementing gender-based violence prevention and response in Upper Nile state in April 2014. In 2015, the program expanded to Central Equatoria, Unity, and Jonglei states to address the needs of displaced women as well as those in host communities. We are providing clinical management of rape cases and are an important part of the referral pathway to ensure survivors have access to services.


Where We Are Responding: