The nearly 400,000 fatalities linked to the nearly five-year-old civil war in South Sudan exceeds some estimates for the death toll from the slightly older conflict in Syria, according to a U.S. Department of State (DOS)-funded report released this week.
The study revealed that South Sudan’s civil war, which has been raging since late 2013, has caused the deaths of at least 382,900 people, noting that the fatalities were a direct result of the violence as well as the increased risk of disease and reduced access to healthcare.
South Sudan’s death toll is higher than the lower-end fatality estimate of 364,792 for the war in Syria provided this month by the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has used a network of ground sources to monitor the conflict since it began in 2011.
“Sudan’s civil war has caused the deaths of at least 382,900 people — far higher than previous estimates and more than the conflict in Syria, according to a new study … The new figure is comparable to Syria, where more than 360,000 are estimated to have died since the conflict began in 2011,” the Agence France-Presse (AFP) agency noted.
“To our knowledge, this is the first comprehensive estimate of how many people have died because of the war,” Francesco Checchi, a lead investigator on the South Sudan study, told the Associated Press (AP). “Every day that goes by, hundreds more lives may be lost.”
“I think this figure is much more realistic than the 50,000 which has been used for so long,” Klem Ryan, a former official with the United Nations mission in South Sudan who also served as coordinator of the U.N. panel of experts monitoring sanctions on the country, told the AP.
The Observatory believes the Syrian conflict has killed as many as 522,000. The United Nations has placed the estimate at about 400,000. That means the death toll in Sudan at least parallels the fatalities in Syria.
As early as March 2016, some news outlets like the New York Times suggested that more people had likely died in South Sudan than in Syria.
Referring to the DOS-commissioned study, AP pointed out:
The new report, based on statistical modeling and not peer reviewed, says the deaths appeared to peak in 2016 and 2017. Fresh fighting broke out in the capital, Juba, when a peace deal collapsed in July 2016 and the violence spread into other regions. Most of the deaths occurred in the country’s south and northeast and among adult males, the report says.
South Sudan obtained its independence with the help of the United States in 2011, making it the world’s youngest nation. Civil war has marred the short history of the African country. The fledgling nation descended into chaos soon after its birth.
Despite various peace deals between South Sudan’s most prominent ethnic groups the Dinka and the Nuer, the civil war that erupted between them in December 2013 continues to rage.
“It returns [Nuer] rebel leader Riek Machar to his role as vice president to [Dinka] President Salva Kiir, a situation that sparked the conflict when their supporters clashed along ethnic lines. Machar fled the post again during the 2016 fighting,” AP noted, referring to the agreement.