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Montage of South Sudan pictures - a group of women in a refugee camp, a herd of cattle tended by children, two girls writing on a blackboard at school, a government soldier, and UNICEF staff practicing disinfection techniques

Case study: South Sudan

As a contrast to the previous UK case study of an emergency in a high-income country, we shall now look at what is termed a ‘complex humanitarian emergency’ in a low-income country, South Sudan.

A complex humanitarian emergency

For decades, South Sudan has experienced ongoing protracted crises resulting in widespread and persistent violence, population displacement and disruption of livelihoods. It has been exposed to conflict, cycles of floods and drought, and outbreaks of plant- and animal pests and diseases. Exacerbated by fragile institutions, poor governance, weak physical and economic infrastructure, the cumulative effect has been catastrophic. Food insecurity, the widespread displacement of whole communities, violence, continuing climatic shocks, and a collapsed economy undermines the struggle to develop peaceful, sustainable livelihoods.

The Republic of South Sudan achieved independence from its northerly neighbour, Sudan, on 9 July 2011, inheriting a legacy of civil war and tribal tensions. Conflict with Sudan over contested oil fields and territories in the border areas continued. Then in December 2013 internal conflict due to a political dispute broke out again, which further inflamed inter-communal tensions resulting in the displacement of more than 2.4 million people, including some 750,000 people seeking shelter in neighbouring countries.

Livestock is a critical asset which is central to the internal conflict. The loss of livestock due to cattle raiding, drought and displacement exacerbates food insecurity and malnutrition.

Communicable and water-borne diseases, including cholera, diarrhoea and malaria are prevalent. There is also an alarming level of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) with as many as 65% of women and girls having experienced physical and/or sexual violence.

The ongoing situation prolongs instability, poverty and misery. It is a clear barrier to the country’s development with poor institutional structures unable to deliver services without considerable external support. The multi-faceted challenges posed by the many hazards to which households and communities are exposed explains why it is termed a ‘complex humanitarian emergency’.

Support to communities

Despite the multitude of hardships posed by decades of conflict and environmental hazards, communities have absorbed shocks and adapted to changing and challenging situations. This demonstrates an impressive level of resilience. But how can this level of resilience be maintained and supported?

Some of the challenges faced by communities in fragile and conflict-affected states include:

  • Surviving in remote and physically challenging locations – heavy rains can make access even more difficult

  • Insecurity can have a long-term impact, both physically and emotionally. This can result in the absence of external support in areas with the greatest needs.

Your task

In remote and insecure locations, what measures might communities take to become more self-reliant and resilient?

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This article is from the free online course:

Community Preparedness, Recovery and Resilience: An Introduction

Coventry University