An opposition soldier stands guard at an opposition military camp near the town of Nimule in Eastern Equatoria state, South Sudan on Aug. 28, 2019. [Sam Mednick, AP]

An estimated 9.4 million people - an increase of 500,000 - will need assistance and protection in South Sudan next year, UN humanitarians said on Friday.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that endemic violence, conflict, access constraints, operational interference, public health challenges, and climatic shocks such as flooding and localized drought worsen deteriorating humanitarian conditions.

The OCHA reported that it appealed to the government for leadership in increasing investments in peace and development to reduce humanitarian needs.

Based on UN data, the country of an estimated 11.5 million people has been in crisis since it became independent of Sudan in 2011. The two countries are locked in a dispute, sometimes violent, over the Abiye Area along their mutual demarcation line.