South Sudan: “tens of thousands of under-fives will die”

Today (Easter, April 20, 2014) the United Nations reports that the violence in South Sudan has now displaced almost 1,000,000 people from their homes.  That huge displacement is causing hunger to rapidly increase throughout the country as it has since the violence first began escalating in December of last year.

The risk of famine is growing more imminent as time is running out to preposition necessary food before the rains start. Once the rains begin roads become totally impassable. Airlifts then have to be utilized and those are far more expensive. And the WFP mission in South Sudan is already low on funds. Food needs to be prepositioned and in place before the end of May or it will be too late.

This is just the latest in a string of reports that describe the worsening conditions in the world’s newest country. On March 27th, Hilde Johnson, the top UN peacekeeping official in South Sudan, warned of a pending famine for the country. In Johnson’s words,” Famine as it is being defined is likely within 5 months unless humanitarians…get all the food they need into the respective locations before the rains start. The clock is ticking and it’s a race against time.”

Johnson warned, “We think eight to ten hundred thousand people are in a very critical situation.” Even in March as Johnson was warning of famine,  reports were already coming in of malnutrition among those being displaced.

Valerie Guarnieri, the World Food Program Regional Director For East and Central Africa wrote, “We are concerned about reports of alarmingly high rates of malnutrition among children at refugee camps in neighboring countries, particularly Ethiopia. While we are working with partners to provide specialized nutritious foods for refugee children, the high levels of malnutrition are a sign that the humanitarian situation in inaccessible regions of South Sudan may be rapidly deteriorating.”

On April 11th UNICEF warned that 50,000 South Sudanese children would starve to death unless immediate action was taken, and the crisis could grow even worse. The UNICEF report stated that over 3.7 million people in South Sudan were suffering from hunger as food supplies had been disrupted by the escalating conflict.

Jonathan Veitch, the UNICEF Representative for South Sudan also warned of children starving. He stated, “Sadly, worse is yet to come. If conflict continues, and farmers miss the planting season, we will see child starvation on a scale never experienced here. If we cannot get more funds and better access to reach malnourished children in South Sudan, tens of thousands of under-fives will die.”

Veitch added, “These are not mere statistic. They are the children for whom South Sudan holds so much potential and promise. We must not fail the children of this new and fragile nation.”

Act now. Go to the Stop Hunger Now website for more information on how to help. Also look at the WFP and UNICEF websites, as well. Immediate action is needed to avert the senseless starvation of tens of thousands of infants and young children.