The United Nations warned today that 30,000 people are “facing starvation and death” in war-torn South Sudan. The UN World Food Programme, UNICEF and the Food and Agriculture Organization are demanding immediate access to these starving war victims, who are in Unity State.
The war in South Sudan, between the government and opposition groups, has caused extreme hunger. Farming in conflict areas cannot take place. What little food is available has become high-priced.
Nearly four million people are living with severe food shortages and on the brink of famine. Many displaced families report eating only one meal a day, consisting of fish and water lilies.
The violence has blocked humanitarian aid from reaching civilians, leaving children especially vulnerable to deadly malnutrition. UNICEF’s South Sudan representative, Jonathan Veitch, warns, “Since fighting broke out nearly two years ago, children have been plagued by conflict, disease, fear and hunger. Their families have been extraordinary in trying to sustain them, but have now exhausted all coping mechanisms. Agencies can support, but only if we have unrestricted access. If we do not, many children may die.”
As long as the violence persists, hunger will only continue to escalate. War means hunger. Oxfam’s Zlatko Gegic says, “civilians are fleeing their homes and making the treacherous journey to safer locations, only to be faced with starvation as aid organizations are blocked due to fighting. Many children have arrived alone, their mothers killed in the fighting or during the journey, with nothing but the clothes on their backs, surviving on plant roots and whatever else they can forage.”
Malnutrition causes lasting physical and mental damage in children, so it’s urgent the food reaches them quickly. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is the lead hunger relief organization in South Sudan. Along with UNICEF, Catholic Relief Services and others WFP conducts emergency missions to relieve the suffering, provided they have access.
WFP depends on voluntary donations and this must be kept up to provide the food aid. The United States Food for Peace program is the single largest donor to WFP, and Congress has to boost its funding.
But a lasting peace deal between the warring parties has to take place for the humanitarian crisis to ultimately end. The alternative is famine for South Sudan.
Millions in South Sudan are at risk. This article reprinted here from the Gurtong Trust tells the story. Stop Hunger Now continues it’s efforts in the village of Old Fangak in Jonglei State.
South Sudan Families Being Pushed To The Brink
Skyrocketing inflation, conflict and collapsed markets are pushing people in South Sudan to breaking point as the political deadlock enters its 16th month and families face a second lean season since fighting began, international agency Oxfam warned on Tuesday in a statement.
22 April 2015
By Jacob Achiek
JUBA, April 22, 2015 [Gurtong] – “What we are seeing now is families that have spent the past year and a half living on the edge many have exhausted their food stocks, been displaced from their homes, missed opportunities to plant and farm, and now the economy is showing the strain of a year and a half of conflict,” said Emma Drew, Head of Humanitarian Programmes for Oxfam in South Sudan.
Areas affected by the conflict are seeing drastic increases in food prices. In February, cereal prices were estimated to have shot up by 300% in Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei states.
The South Sudanese pound is also depreciating rapidly – while the official rate remains at 3.2 pounds to the US dollar, parallel market rates are as high as 7 pounds to the dollar which is fluctuating on a regular basis. This is increasing the cost of regional food imports and putting pressure on already stretched household budgets.
“Many people can no longer afford to buy food and other basic essentials; trade in markets has been disrupted, or in many instances, markets have been damaged or destroyed altogether,” said Ms. Drew.
Already, 2.5 million people are facing severe levels of hunger. By June, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) predicts that more than a million people will join them.
“As the rains set in, reaching people who are desperately in need of aid will become more and more difficult. It’s vital that aid reaches people not just in the camps on UN bases but the millions in need spread out across the country, especially in conflict affected states,” Ms. Drew said.
“It’s hard to describe just how difficult it is to provide humanitarian assistance here. Insecurity due to protracted fighting and poor roads mean that in many places agencies have to fly absolutely everything in, often to airstrips that are easily bogged down by mud and rain – so getting food and essential items in before the rains start is an urgent priority.”
Flexible funding remains key, especially in light of the need to adapt to the changing humanitarian context. In addition to the urgent food aid that will be needed to save lives, donors should also support programmes that develop people’s skills and resilience, and that build on or re-establish markets wherever possible.
While the UN appeal for aid in South Sudan has been over half funded, donors must swiftly deliver on the existing commitments. Regional and international governments should use their influence on the government of South Sudan and the opposition to ensure communities can access aid where they are.
“Aid is important and lifesaving but ultimately what people need most is an end to the conflict. A real, lasting peace that delivers genuine security and stability will require far more than a power sharing deal between political and military elites,” added Ms. Drew.
Regional leaders and the international community have an important role in helping communities and the country’s leaders to achieve a lasting peace. Complacency is not an option.
- Despite declines, child mortality and hunger persist in developing nations, U.N. reports, By Rick Gladstone and Somini Sengupta, September 16, 2014, New York Times: “The United Nations on Tuesday reported significant declines in the rates of child mortality and hunger, but said those two scourges of the developing world stubbornly persist in parts of Africa and South Asia despite major health care advances and sharply higher global food production. The trends, detailed in two annual reports by United Nations agencies, were presented before the General Assembly meetings of world leaders, where the Millennium Development Goals, a United Nations list of aspirations to meet the needs of the world’s poorest, are an important discussion theme. While one of those goals — halving the number of hungry people by 2015 — seems within reach, the goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds is years behind, the reports showed…”
- World making progress against hunger, report finds, but large pockets of undernourished persist, By Daniel Stone, September 16, 2014, National Geographic: “No one on the planet should go hungry. That’s because the world’s farmers grow 700 more calories per person than the World Food Programme’s daily recommended 2,100 calories—an abundance of plants and animals that surpasses the daily needs of the world’s 7.2 billion people. In most places, the challenge is access. Global access to food is improving overall, according to a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization released Tuesday, yet challenges in the developing world—from poor infrastructure and political instability to erratic weather and long-term changes in climate—are keeping 805 million people from having enough to eat…”