2024 will be a critical year for the future of South Sudan. Here's what you need to know.

On July 9, 2011 the Republic of South Sudan became Africa’s 55th country. Yet being a new country didn’t absolve its 10 million residents from the burden of history. 

That peaceful secession from Sudan came after more than two decades of civil war, which led to massive loss of life, destruction, and displacement. Before that, there were even more decades of conflict in the region, coupled with huge humanitarian and development needs. Many of these issues have persisted in the 13 years of South Sudan’s history as an independent state. The country has rich oil fields, giving it economic opportunity. However, ongoing instability has severe consequences for a country that frequently ranks among the poorest in the world. Here’s what you need to know about the crisis in South Sudan in 2024.

Get the latest from South Sudan — and beyond

Sign up for Concern's newsletter to learn more about what's going on in South Sudan — and what we're doing to help.

1. This is going to be a critical year for South Sudan’s transition to peace

South Sudan’s timeline has been dominated by violence, with the beginning of its civil war officially recorded as December 15, 2013. A failed peace negotiation led to renewed attacks in 2016, and before that the conflict rapidly took on an ethnic dimension between Dinka and Nuer tribes. In 2018, a peace treaty called the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), and the war was declared “over” on February 22, 2020. 

However, since then, the plans in place to transition South Sudan into a stable government have been stalled, with sub-national violence continuing in some areas of the country. All eyes are on the transitional government as it works towards a key deadline: To have the appropriate systems and environment in place for the country’s first general election this December. The transitional period outlined in R-ARCSS has been extended twice due in part to this fighting, as well as other alleged human rights violations that go against the treaty. It’s set to end in February 2025, meaning that the success of these elections is critical.

2. Africa’s largest refugee crisis got more complicated in 2023

More than a decade of fighting has resulted in South Sudan being the largest refugee crisis in Africa. Since 2013, over 4 million South Sudanese have been forced from their homes. Over 2.2 million have left the country entirely, while another 2.2 million are displaced internally, in what are known as Protection of Civilian (POC) sites. The UN ranks this as the world’s fourth most-neglected displacement crisis. 

The outbreak of conflict in neighboring Sudan last April has led to further complications. The UNHCR estimates that more than half a million South Sudanese have returned home since the onset of the Sudan crisis. Others have returned to South Sudan from Ethiopia, where food distribution was halted for four months while the World Food Program investigated allegations of rations being diverted. Many who came back to South Sudan arrived in areas where need is especially high. These tensions, combined with the ongoing violence, have also had a negative impact on the South Sudanese economy. As one young returnee told the UN, however, “Conditions here cannot be worse than what we experienced when fleeing.”

Flooding near an IDP site in Bentiu, Unity State. (Photo: Ed Ram/Concern Worldwide)
Flooding near an IDP site in Bentiu, Unity State. (Photo: Ed Ram/Concern Worldwide)

3. Natural disasters are becoming more frequent — and more severe

In addition to man-made emergencies, natural disasters in South Sudan have become both more frequent and more severe in recent years. According to the European Commission’s 2023 INFORM Risk Index, it’s the second most vulnerable country to natural hazards and climate change. There has been a decrease in rainfall and an increase in temperature in the country, with meteorological data from the last 50 years suggesting an overall increase of roughly 1 degree Celsius.

In part, this is because 95% of South Sudanese depend on the land for their livelihoods, meaning that their personal survival is at stake. Between 2019 and 2022, rainy season patterns shifted, with droughts placing strain on rural communities who rely on subsistence farming. On the flip side, in 2022, over 1 million people were affected by floods, which brought the Nile River to its highest point in 70 years. The erosion of natural resources also becomes fuel for violence, meaning that millions of civilians are stuck in a vicious cycle between conflict and climate. 

Ayaan* (30) and son Kowey* (14 months) attend a Concern health care centre in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state. (Photo: Ed Ram / Concern Worldwide; names changed for security)
Ayaan* (30) and son Kowey* (14 months) attend a Concern health care centre in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state. (Photo: Ed Ram / Concern Worldwide; names changed for security)

4. Over half of the country’s population will face crisis levels of hunger this year

The historical temperature increase in South Sudan, combined with the extreme weather events, suggests a strong link between climate change and the country’s ongoing hunger crisis — including a famine in 2017. While Concern doesn’t have sufficient data to place the country on our annual Global Hunger Index, the indicators we do have around hunger in South Sudan suggest it would be among the top six hungriest countries in the world

Between April and July of this year, one of the hungry seasons for the region, the UN estimates that approximately 7.1 million people — over 57% of the population — will face crisis-levels of food insecurity (if not worse). This includes 2.4 million women and children who are facing severe malnutrition. Because of funding cuts to programs, including several aid packages that have specifically impacted funding for South Sudan, the UN has only budgeted to reach 4 million facing hunger, meaning that some impossible choices will be made this year.

5. Funding cuts are adding stress to an already dire situation

Hunger is one of the top priorities in addressing the humanitarian needs of an emergency situation. The fact that the UN is only able to budget to reach a little more than half of those facing the highest levels of hunger in South Sudan illustrates how deep global funding cuts were to the country for 2024. The Norwegian Refugee Council reports that major donors have cut aid packages by as much as 40 to 50% (citing other pressing global issues). 

In the meantime, only 7% of South Sudan has electricity and just 10% have access to adequate sanitation services. The national budget allocation for healthcare is 8%, which is in part why 70% of South Sudanese lack basic access to health services. 

In a 2017 evaluation of Concern’s programs in South Sudan, we noted that our emergency response teams — and the communities they worked with — were “semi-permanently caught up in a relief phase.” In other words, we were doing all the running we could to stay in place. This is the experience for many organizations on the ground in the country, and in the last seven years, conditions have not improved. Without any other solution, this crisis will continue to absorb significant resources and delay a transition from emergency relief to recovery. One program respondent summarized it in our 2017 survey: “If there is no support for the South Sudanese, there will be a country without a population.” 

“If there is no support for the South Sudanese, there will be a country without a population.” — Concern program participant

Concern in South Sudan

Concern has been in South Sudan longer than the country has existed. Our recent work in the country has included: 

  • Providing lifesaving emergency nutrition and health services provided to acutely malnourished children and women, reaching over 142,000 people via 78 nutrition centers. 
  • Consulting and treating more than 68,000 children and mothers via our mobile clinics in five hard-to-reach areas in Aweil North and West counties, which also provided nutrition sessions for over 90,000. 
  • Reaching over 150,000 people in Unity State and Northern Bahr el Ghazal, including 34,000 people living in Bentiu displacement camp with water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions.
  • Delivering nutrition support and sufficiency to 19,000 people who took part in cash-for-work activities and were also supported with hand tools and improved staple crop seeds. 
  • Improving water access for 49,000 people as a direct response to COVID-19.


However, this work is also under threat due to funding cuts. Your support of Concern — especially as a monthly donor — can help fill vital gaps left by large-scale donors, with $0.93 of every dollar going directly into our programs. 

Support Concern's work