South Sudan Spirals Deeper into Grave Hunger Crisis
As nation marks fifth anniversary, 4.3 million people suffer acute food shortages
The international humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger today expressed deep concern that ongoing insecurity, high food prices, and major food deficits have pushed large numbers of already vulnerable people in South Sudan over the edge, leaving them struggling to meet their basic survival needs. A new report released this week indicates that the ongoing food crisis has deteriorated dramatically, with 4.3 million people across South Sudan now in urgent need of food assistance, a striking increase since the beginning of the year. Action Against Hunger warned that the situation will only get worse in the months before the next harvest unless large-scale humanitarian action is mobilized immediately.
Mother Agowuh Lakech has been feeding her children leaves picked from trees because she has been unable to earn income, and there is no food available. “We haven’t had proper food for days,” Agowuh said. “I am afraid for my family.” The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) for South Sudan released this week classified parts of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, where Agowuh lives, in Phase 4 (on a scale of 5), a full-blown emergency, with 50 percent of the population facing severe food insecurity. In Unity State, also classified in Phase 4, 65 percent of the population is in acute food crisis—with an estimated 5,000 people in conflict-torn Leer County experiencing a Phase 5 “food security catastrophe,” living in swamps with no access to humanitarian assistance.
Rainy season puts vulnerable children in even greater danger
“The hunger crisis in the state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal is now in frightening freefall,” said Action Against Hunger USA Chief Executive Andrea Tamburini. “In the first four months of 2016, we have seen a 50 percent increase in the numbers of acutely malnourished children admitted to our treatment programs, which is very alarming.” Malnutrition weakens the immune system, and increases the risk of infection, putting the lives of large numbers of vulnerable children at high risk, particularly in Aweil South of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, where the nutrition situation is “very critical,” according to the latest IPC results.
There is a major food deficit in Northern Bahr el Ghazal from poor rains and poor harvests in 2015/early 2016—and frequent incidents of robbery and insecurity have disrupted the supply of food to the area. The closure of the Sudan/South Sudan border has also interrupted the transportation and supply of food from Sudan. These factors contributed to the fact that at the start of the lean season in April, people had even less food than usual.
“Today, we are profoundly concerned about the impact of the oncoming rainy season on the food crisis,” said Tamburini. “Food and nutrition supplies need to be prepositioned immediately before roads become impassable and access to food insecure communities becomes extremely challenging.”
Aid efforts crippled by threats to humanitarian space and critical funding gaps
A volatile environment and shrinking humanitarian space are also jeopardizing humanitarian access and putting the lives of aid workers and civilians at risk. In May alone, three aid workers have been killed in South Sudan, and humanitarian partners reported 78 incidents that prevented their access to people in need. Of those, 73 percent involved violence against humanitarian personnel or their properties, according to a June report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
July 9 marks the fifth anniversary of South Sudan’s independence. Instead of celebrating its potential, the world is witnessing the country’s descent into chaos. As of June, the 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan for South Sudan is only 31.1 percent funded. Desperate underfunding, ongoing insecurity, and impunity are preventing humanitarian assistance from reaching millions of people in need of lifelines. And the current supply pipelines for food and essential nutrition assistance are underresourced to meet the rising demand.
“The world is literally standing by and watching South Sudan sink,” said Tamburini. “The time for talk is over. The humanitarian situation has headed toward a point of no return. Failure is not an option. We call upon the international community to take action—today—to mobilize funding, and prioritize supply pipelines and diplomacy to put an end to this crisis.”
Action Against Hunger is meeting urgent humanitarian needs of populations in four states of South Sudan: Jonglei, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, and Central Equatoria (Juba). We are reaching more than 350,000 people with lifesaving emergency food and nutrition programs, as well as livelihoods and water and sanitation interventions.
ABOUT ACTION AGAINST HUNGER
Action Against Hunger is a global humanitarian organization that takes decisive action against the causes and effects of hunger. We save the lives of malnourished children. We ensure families can access clean water, food, training, and health care. We enable entire communities to be free from hunger. With more than 6,500 staff in over 45 countries, our programs reached 14.9 million people in 2015.