10 years after South Sudan’s independence, more children in need of urgent humanitarian assistance than ever before

Two-thirds of children in desperate need of support

06 July 2021
South Sudan. Aid teams wade through flood water to transport food and feminine hygiene kits to distribution points for displaced communities in Pibor.
UNICEF/UNI224894/De La Guardia
Aid teams wade through flood water to transport food and feminine hygiene kits to distribution points for displaced communities in Pibor, South Sudan.

NEW YORK/GENEVA/NAIROBI/JUBA, 6 July 2021– A record 4.5 million children – two out of three – in South Sudan are in desperate need of humanitarian support, UNICEF warned today, ahead of the 10th anniversary of the country’s independence. In a report on the impact of the humanitarian crisis on children, UNICEF warned that hopes that independence would bring a new dawn for the country’s children have faded. Bouts of violence and conflict, recurring floods, droughts and other extreme weather events fuelled by climate change, and a deepening economic crisis have led to extremely high food insecurity, and one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. The recent peace agreement, which has only partially been implemented, has so far failed to bring about any remedy to the challenges facing the country’s children and young people.

“The hope and optimism that children and families in South Sudan felt at the birth of their country in 2011 have slowly turned to desperation and hopelessness,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “The childhood of many 10-year-old children in South Sudan today has been beset by violence, crises and rights abuses.”

Some 8.3 million people in South Sudan need humanitarian support, a much higher number than the levels seen during the 2013-2018 civil war, which ranged from 6.1 million to 7.5 million people.

The child mortality rate is among the highest in the world, with 1 in 10 children not expected to reach their fifth birthday.

High levels of food insecurity are of particular concern. Some 1.4 million children are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition this year, the highest figure since 2013. More than 300,000 children – the highest number ever in the country – are expected to suffer from the worst form of malnutrition and are at risk of dying if treatment is not provided.

Limited access to education and high drop-out rates have left 2.8 million children out of school – the highest proportion of out-of-school children in the world at more than 70 per cent of school-age children. The 14-month school closure because of the COVID pandemic had pushed an additional 2 million children out of school.

Despite continued insecurity, UNICEF is working with partners to increase the capacity to screen and treat children for acute malnutrition with an expected caseload of 1.4 million children in 2021. Improved access to clean water, improved sanitation and hygiene and

access to basic health care are also among UNICEF’s top priorities, together with access to education.

However, funding remains limited. UNICEF has appealed for US$180 million to assist the most vulnerable children this year. Halfway into the year, this appeal is only funded for one-third, and the wider Humanitarian Response plan remains similarly underfunded. Donors have already made cuts in their budgets for South Sudan – or given notice that reductions are just around the corner. The crisis will worsen as we enter the lean season with increased risk of flooding. Lives will be lost without urgent action.

“If we, as a humanitarian community, do not receive sufficient funding, the reality for children and families is that no help will be coming,” said UNICEF South Sudan Representative ai Andrea Suley. “Humanitarian organizations are responsible for almost all service delivery in South Sudan. Without an end to the pervasive violence and insecurity threatening families and hampering humanitarian access, and without adequate funding, health and nutrition centres will be closed, wells will not be fixed and the sound of the generators keeping the vaccine fridges cool will soon fade away.”

Media contacts

Joe English
Tel: +1 917 893 0692
Yves Willemot
Chief of Communication
UNICEF South Sudan
Tel: +211 91 216 2888

Additional resources

Ethiopia. A student stands up in class.
Chol Gach Deng, a student at Makot Primary and Secondary School, stands up during class in Ethiopia's Gambella region.


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

Follow UNICEF on TwitterFacebook, Instagram and YouTube