The ICRC in South Sudan

13-02-2013 Overview

In South Sudan, the ICRC works to prevent violations of international humanitarian law and supports hospital and physical-rehabilitation services. The organization helps conflict-affected communities to survive and become self-sufficient through livelihood support and by improving access to clean water. It also reunites families dispersed by conflict and visits places of detention to support the Republic of South Sudan in adhering to international standards.


The ICRC established a delegation in South Sudan's capital, Juba, when the country became independent on 9 July 2011, although the organization's operations in southern Sudan began in 1986 following the outbreak of conflict between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM/A). The ICRC has three sub-delegations, in Malakal, Bentiu and Wau, from where it covers the northern regions of the country. It also works in Jonglei and Western Equatoria states.

Many communities still affected by violence

After enduring years of conflict, South Sudan remains volatile and prone to armed violence. Unresolved disputes between South Sudan and Sudan have resulted in clashes between the two countries. Meanwhile, internal fighting in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, both in Sudan, has caused over 150,000 refugees to flee into South Sudan, placing a strain on local resources.

Clashes between armed groups and South Sudan's army have led to displacement and caused civilian casualties. Landmines continue to take a toll on communities and complicate humanitarian access.

In areas bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic, armed violence has disrupted the livelihood of entire communities, leading to displacement and the separation of family members, particularly children. South Sudan is also prey to devastating inter-communal and inter-ethnic violence linked to disputes over livestock and seasonal migration.

Protecting people affected by conflict

One of the ICRC's priorities in South Sudan is to promote compliance with international humanitarian law (IHL) in armed conflict. ICRC staff monitor the application of IHL and make confidential representations to parties to the conflict if necessary. They also remind the authorities and weapon bearers of their obligations under IHL, particularly with regard to the conduct of hostilities and the duty to protect people not participating in fighting.

The ICRC visits places of detention in South Sudan for humanitarian reasons, to monitor and where necessary seek to improve conditions and treatment. Findings and recommendations produced following these visits are shared confidentially with the detaining authorities. The ICRC provides expert advice and material support to implement any recommendations.

The ICRC also provides legal advice and support to the South Sudanese government on the process of acceding to and implementing the main instruments of IHL. The Republic of South Sudan acceded to the 1949 Geneva Conventions in July 2012.

Improving access to health care

An ICRC medical team based at Malakal Teaching Hospital provides trauma and emergency surgical care along with paediatric and physiotherapy services. It performs war surgery in the hospital or at the scene of fighting and delivers on-the-job training to hospital staff. The ICRC is building a new operating theatre, overhauling existing buildings and upgrading the water system at the hospital. The ICRC also donates medical supplies to help other hospitals tackle emergencies.

The ICRC supports the two main physical rehabilitation centres in the country, in Juba and Rumbek. These centres provide prosthetic and orthotic services, elbow crutches, wheelchair services and physiotherapy for thousands of people each year.

Assistance for families

In close cooperation with the South Sudan Red Cross, the ICRC supports vulnerable families, particularly civilians displaced by fighting, by distributing basic household items, food, seed and other livelihood tools such as fishing nets. It runs large-scale animal vaccination programmes in collaboration with the Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries.

The ICRC repairs and builds public water points and treatment plants in rural and urban areas affected by armed violence. The ICRC also sets up emergency water distribution systems when shortages are severe.

Supporting the South Sudan Red Cross

The South Sudan Red Cross (SSRC) was legally recognized by the South Sudanese government in March 2012. It held its first General Assembly in October, during which it elected a new Governing Council.

The ICRC is providing wide-ranging technical and legal support to the SSRC as it moves towards membership of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The ICRC also plays an important role in developing the SSRC's emergency-response capacity.


The Jamam refugee camp in Upper Nile State, South Sudan. 

The Jamam refugee camp in Upper Nile State, South Sudan.
© T. Stoddart / Getty Images / ICRC

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