The water supply in South Sudan is faced with numerous challenges. It is estimated that between 50% and 60% of the population of South Sudan has access to an improved water source, such as a hand pump, a protected well or – for a small minority – piped water supply. Although the White Nile runs through the country, water is scarce during the dry season in areas that are not located on the river.
About half of the population does not have access to an improved water source, defined as a protected well, standpipe or a handpump within 1 km. The few existing piped water supply systems are often not well maintained and the water they provide is often not safe to drink. Displaced people returning home put a huge strain on infrastructure, and the government institutions in charge of the sector are weak. Substantial external funding from numerous government agencies and non-governmental organizations is available to improve water supply.
Numerous non-governmental organizations support water supply in Southern Sudan, such as Water is Basic, the Obakki Foundation and Bridgton-Lake Region Rotary Club from North America.
As of February 2014, South Sudan was host to over 230,000 refugees, with the vast majority, over 209,000, having arrived recently from Sudan, because of the War in Darfur. Other African countries that contribute the most refugees to South Sudan are the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As a result of the war that erupted in December 2013, more than 2.3 million people – one in every five people in South Sudan – have been forced to flee their homes, including 1.66 million internally displaced people (with 53.4 per cent estimated to be children) and nearly 644,900 refugees in neighbouring countries. Some 185,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) have sought refuge in UN Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites, while around 90 per cent of IDPs are on the run or sheltering outside PoC sites. Consequently, UNHCR is stepping up its response through an inter-agency collaborative approach under the leadership of the Humanitarian Coordinator, and working with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). In early February 2013, UNHCR started distributing relief items outside the UN base in Malakal, South Sudan, which was expected to reach 10,000 people.
2017 South Sudan famine
On 20 February 2017 South Sudan and the United Nations declared a famine in parts of former Unity State, with the warning that it could spread rapidly without further action. Over 100,000 people were affected. The UN World Food Programme said that 40% of the population of South Sudan, 4.9 million people, need food urgently. U.N. officials said that President Salva Kiir Mayardit was blocking food deliveries to some areas. Furthermore, UNICEF warned that more than 1 million children in South Sudan are subjected to malnutrition.
The US State Department warns US citizens against visiting South Sudan due to continued armed conflicts in the country. As per an advisory published in December 2015, the US embassy in South Sudan is unable to provide any required assistance to US citizens in or outside Juba due to lack of the basic infrastructure and security threats outside the embassy. Canadian and British advisories also recommend to avoid all travel to South Sudan and border areas, and they also warn about their inability to provide assistance to their citizens in South Sudan.