South Sudan’s civil war has claimed the lives of nearly 400,000 people since fighting erupted in late 2013, a new study says, offering a tally far higher than previous estimates.
The report, published by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and financed by the US State Department, revealed on Wednesday that the conflict in South Sudan had led to at least 382,900 excess deaths over the past five years.
The study said about half of the deaths had resulted from ethnic violence, while the rest had been caused by increased risk of disease and reduced access to health care.
“It is clear that the war has severely affected the health of the South Sudanese population, and that the humanitarian response to the crisis has been insufficient,” said Francesco Checchi, a professor of epidemiology and the lead author of the report.
“To our knowledge, this is the first comprehensive estimate of how many people have died because of the war. Every day that goes by, hundreds more lives may be lost,” he added.
Previous reports had put the number of the deaths at about 50,000.
The study, based on statistical modeling and not peer-reviewed, said the deaths appeared to peak in 2016 and 2017 after a power-sharing agreement brokered in 2015 fell apart and the violence spread into other regions. Most of the deaths reportedly occurred in the country’s south and northeast and among adult males.
The researchers behind the report said their findings “indicate that the humanitarian response in South Sudan must be strengthened and that all parties should seek urgent conflict resolution.”
The bloody civil war in South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, began in December 2013, when incumbent President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup. The violence has displaced some two million people inside the country since then and has also prompted another 2.5 million to flee to neighboring countries.
The two rivals signed a renewed peace accord during a ceremony in Ethiopia earlier this month.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir signed a peace agreement with rebel factions in the Ethiopian capital on Wednesday.
“More fundamentally, our estimates illuminate the human cost of the war and should spur warring parties and international actors to seek lasting conflict resolution,” Checchi said, adding that the report “should also spur warring factions to conduct war according to its rules, instead of attacking civilians and humanitarian actors.”