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South Sudan 2020 Humanitarian Access Overview: January to December 2020

While humanitarian access has improved since the revitalized peace agreement was signed in September 2018, the number of incidents recorded in 2020 rose from 2019. Aid organizations faced continued and widespread access challenges in 2020. The adaptations in humanitarian activities given COVID-19 restrictions were critical. Humanitarians’ attempts to serve people were reportedly constrained by COVID-19 mitigation measures. An increase in sub-national and localized violence, including the resumption of politicized conflict in parts of the country, impacted humanitarian operations and impeded humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people. Based on available information, compromised of humanitarian access in 2020 was mainly as a result of active hostilities and violence against humanitarian workers and assets.

In 2020, a moderate increase in humanitarian access incidents was reported, from 535 incidents in 2019 to 580 in 2020. Despite strong advocacy, access constraints remained under-reported. The surge in sub-national violence, gaps in leadership structures and COVID-19 related movement restrictions contributed to the overall rise in access constraints. Of the incidents reported, 44 per cent were significant in severity, compared to 24 per cent in 2019. Central Equatoria had the highest concentration of incidents reported, 149, primarily due to active hostilities in parts of Lainya, Morobo and Kajo-keji counties. Twenty-two of these incidents were severe access impediments at Juba International Airport. Thirty COVID-19 related access constraints amplified pre-existing difficulties in reaching people, especially during the first half of the year. These included movement restrictions for goods and personnel within and into the country, violence and threats against humanitarian personnel and assets, bureaucratic impediments and operational interference.

Bureaucratic impediments, access denials and operational interference accounted for 196 of the reported incidents, 20 incidents less than in 2019. The slight decrease may be attributed to the decrease in humanitarian staff footprint due to COVID-19. Some incidents, such as demands by organized youth groups for local hiring, particularly in Renk and Bentiu, led to the suspension of humanitarian activities, substantially disrupting multi-sectoral assistance.

Safety of humanitarian workers worsened in 2020 with nine aid workers killed, bringing the total to 124 since 2013. The increase in aid worker deaths was attributed to intensified sub-national violence in Jonglei. A total of 267 humanitarians were relocated in 2020 due to insecurity and flooding, compared to 129 in 2019.

Operation(s)/ Webspace(s): 
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Original Publication Date: 
19 Feb 2021
Map/Infographic Type: 
Humanitarian Access Maps
South Sudan