By Deng Machol
Juba – The United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says the revitalized peace agreement signed two years ago has not changed the humanitarian situation in South Sudan.
The landlocked country has a total population of just over 12 million.
The OCHA said on Tuesday the number of people in South Sudan in need of aid has jumped from 7.5 million last year to 8.3 million in 2021.
It blames years of conflict (sub – national violence), climate change (current floods), and now the impact of COVID-19 for the hike. Those in need include 310,000 refugees and asylum seekers.
As of today, “a total of 72 counties in the country still face extreme humanitarian needs while five are in severe need.”
According to the OCHA, the implementation of the 2018 peace deal has not benefited the ordinary people across the country.
“Two years after the signing of the revitalized peace agreement, its implementation has not reduced the humanitarian needs of the South Sudanese people. South Sudan remained a protection crisis in 2020. Lack of durable peace and limited investment in basic services are holding people back from stability and sustainable development,” the UN OCHA said.
The OCHA said because the leaders have failed to restore durable peace and invest in basic services that encourage stability in the restive country.
In the two years since the signing of the peace deal, South Sudan economy has continued to spiral downwards, pushing locals to the brink across the country, especially in Urban areas.
It said access to essential services, including health care, education, water and sanitation, as well as protection and legal services, was already limited and much of the service infrastructure was damaged, destroyed or closed in the same year.
Conflict, insecurity, and natural disasters have displaced nearly 4 million people since 2013,” the office said.
However, Insecurity, lack of basic services, and unresolved housing, land and property as issues that prevented people from returning home in large numbers.
Some 1.6 million people have remained internally displaced and another 2.2 million as refugees in the region since 2013.
Hunger is growing, with more than 7.2 million people projected to be severely food insecure during 2021, it said in a release. Some communities face “catastrophic levels of food insecurity.”
“Overall food security worsened and some communities were facing catastrophic needs. More children were acutely malnourished than in the past three years,” the OCHA said.
The already serious humanitarian situation has been compounded by severe flooding, affecting approximately 1 million people each year in 2019 and 2020.
The locals also continue to be highly vulnerable to epidemic diseases, due to low immunization coverage, a weak health system, and poor hygiene and sanitation.
In an overview humanitarian needs report released Jan. 26, UN OCHA said people’s coping mechanisms weakened as a consequence of the cumulative shocks, leading families to adopt negative practices such as forced labor and child marriage.
“Women and girls continued to face extreme levels of gender-based violence and psychosocial distress,” it said. People’s coping mechanisms weakened as a consequence of the cumulative shocks, leading families to adopt negative practices such as forced labor and child marriage.”
These conditions of physical and mental wellbeing and living standards are expected to further deteriorate in 2021.
According to the intersectoral severity of needs analysis, humanitarian shortages are most concerning in Pibor County in Jonglei which was classified as the only county in catastrophic need.
UN OCHA also underscored the importance of ending violence against aid workers and assets, and allowing unhindered access to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in need.
It revealed that humanitarian assistance delivered to more than 6 million people in 2020 kept communities from falling into deeper need.
In 2020, communities were hit hard by the triple shock of intensified conflict and sub-national violence, a second consecutive year of major flooding, and the impacts of COVID-19 that has had a devastating and multi-faceted socio-economic impact on people.
The humanitarian office said that among the difficulties they face are severe economic contractions, spikes in commodities prices, loss of livelihoods, particularly in urban areas, increased protection risks, and disrupted access to basic services.
South Sudan, one of the East Africa’s youngest nation in the world, only became independent in 2011 after the decades of civil war, but turned into another civil war in late 2013 that has killed nearly 400,000 people and displaced 4 million people from their homes.
Although, the country is rich in oil and natural resources, it is among the poorer nations in the world, ranking 157 out of 194 countries or territories in the International Monetary Fund’s 2020 estimate of the World Economic Outlook.
President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar formed an incomplete government of a national unity in attempt to ending the country’s five conflict but the implementation is at the slow pace.