Opinion: Global Support to South Sudan through UN and NGOs with a Focus on Health and Food Security


There have been three phases of assistance to South Sudan by the international community: firstly during the war, secondly during the CPA and thirdly after Independence. During this time, the UN and NGOs played an important role effecting the social wellbeing of South Sudan’s population, however with limited effect.

Positive Contributions include:

  • Capacity building of human resources, including qualifying health and agriculture cadres
  • Support for policy development of most ministries
  • Support for responding to the most health emergencies including measles, meningitis, cholera
  • Support for the establishment of base line surveys, for instance, the. South Sudan House Hold Survey (SSHH).
  • Support for the development of strategic plans (UNDP, WHO, UNICEF, JICA).

However, the effects of international support have been limited if one compares the 2005 development indicators to the one of 2012. This is because international contributions have shortcomings for the following reasons:

  • Most of the NGOs if you exclude some UN agencies are all emergency partners and not developmental partners;
  • The majority of these NGOs are donors oriented not results oriented;
  • Most of money utilization focuses on capacity building and training without considering the impact on service delivery;
  • The actions of NGOs leads to a lack of ownership due to the resulting dependency of most of population —including the government — on them;
  • Most of human resources development done by NGOs for the government ends up benefiting other organizations, which hire the trained government officials. This keeps government in a weak position;
  • The weaknesses of government results in more funding for NGOs and the cycle repeats itself;
  • Most of plans drawn up by NGOs rarely involve the community from the initial phase.

The Way Foward

South Sudan today faces many challenges. These include:

Food security has deteriorated: Poor harvests, soaring food and fuel prices, conflict and displacement have led to rising hunger and malnutrition in South Sudan. 4.7 million People – half the entire population – are likely to be food insecure this year. Assessments by food security partners confirm at least 1 million people will be severely food insecure and 3.7 moderately insecure.

Malnutrition is on the rise: The eight validated post-harvest SMART surveys in four states indicate high levels of malnutrition with GAM averaging 14.7 per cent and SAM 3.2 per cent in assessed areas. Malnutrition has increased in six of nine states since last year.

Insecurity remains the main driver of displacement: Already this year, over 160,000 people – half of the 300,000 projected internal displacements for the year – have been displaced due to inter-communal fighting and insecurity. Most people have been displaced in Jonglei State.

Refugee influx is larger than expected: New refugees are arriving daily, fleeing conflict and food deficits in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. More than 100,000 people – against the 80,000 planned for all the year – have already sought safety in South Sudan. The influx is expected to continue in the weeks and months ahead.

South Sudanese continue to return home: Up to 250,000 South Sudanese may return from Sudan in the short term. The transition period for residency expired in April without firm agreements in place. While humanitarian partners are negotiating modalities for South Sudanese to return or regularize their status in Sudan, humanitarian actors are scaling up in key areas of return to meet any emergency needs of newly arrived returnees.

A solution for Abyei is yet to be found: Conditions for the safe return of about 110,000 people displaced from Abyei are still not in place, but there is a growing interest to return.

Austerity measures add to concerns: Austerity measures resulting from the recent oil shut down are likely to increase socio-economic pressure on an already vulnerable population. Analysts indicate that persisting austerity will result in worsening food security, increased poverty, higher child mortality and declining school attendance.