South Sudan is acknowledged to have some of the worst health indicators in the world. The under-five infant mortality rate is 135.3 per 1,000, whilst maternal mortality is the highest in the world at 2,053.9 per 100,000 live births. In 2004, there were only three surgeons serving southern Sudan, with three proper hospitals, and in some areas there was just one doctor for every 500,000 people.
The epidemiology of HIV/AIDS in the South Sudan is poorly documented but the prevalence is believed around 3.1%. According to a 2013 study, South Sudan “probably has the highest malaria burden in sub-Saharan Africa”. South Sudan is one of the few countries where dracunculiasis still occurs.
At the time of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, humanitarian needs in Southern Sudan were massive. However, humanitarian organizations under the leadership of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) managed to ensure sufficient funding to bring relief to the local populations. Along with recovery and development aid, humanitarian projects were included in the 2007 Work Plan of the United Nations and partners. More than 90% of the population of South Sudan lives on less than $1 a day, despite the GDP per capita of the entirety of Sudan being $1200 ($3.29/day).
In 2007, the United Nations OCHA (under the leadership of Éliane Duthoit) decreased its involvement in Southern Sudan, as humanitarian needs gradually diminished, slowly but markedly turning over control to the recovery and development activities of NGOs and community-based organisations.
Famine reportedly led to deaths in Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap states in mid-2011, though the state governments of both denied hunger there was severe enough to cause fatalities.
In Pibor County located in the Jonglei State, in December 2011 and January 2012, cattle raids led to border clashes that eventually resulted in widespread ethnic violence, with thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of South Sudanese being displaced, and hundreds of Médecins Sans Frontières staff went missing. The government declared the area a disaster zone and took control from local authorities. South Sudan has a very high rate of child marriage. Violence against women is common in the country, and South Sudan’s laws and policies have been criticized as inadequate in offering protection.