Famine declared in parts of South Sudan
Famine has been declared in parts of South Sudan, where three UN agencies warned on Monday that war and a collapsing economy have left 100,000 people facing starvation.
A further one million people in the country are classified as being on the brink of famine, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
The UN bodies warned that urgent action is needed to prevent more people from dying of hunger. “If sustained and adequate assistance is delivered urgently, the hunger situation can be improved in the coming months and further suffering mitigated” partly reads a joint statement issued by the three UN agencies no Monday.
The joint statement pointed out that that total number of food insecure people is expected to rise to 5.5 million at the height of the lean season in July if nothing is done to curb the severity and spread of the food crisis, .
According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) update released today by the government, the three agencies and other humanitarian partners, 4.9 million people– more than 40 percent of South Sudan’s population – are in need of urgent food, agriculture and nutrition assistance.
Unimpeded humanitarian access to everyone facing famine, or at risk of famine, is urgently needed to reverse the escalating catastrophe, the UN agencies urged. Further spread of famine can only be prevented if humanitarian assistance is scaled up and reaches the most vulnerable.
The UN agencies said, famine is currently affecting parts of Unity State in the northern-central part of the country. They added that a formal famine declaration means people have already started dying of hunger, while describing the situation as “the worst hunger catastrophe” since fighting erupted more than three years ago.
“Famine has become a tragic reality in parts of South Sudan and our worst fears have been realised. Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive,” said FAO Representative in South Sudan Serge Tissot.
“The people are predominantly farmers and war has disrupted agriculture. They’ve lost their livestock, even their farming tools. For months there has been a total reliance on whatever plants they can find and fish they can catch,” he added.
The IPC report estimates that 14 of the 23 assessed counties have global acute malnutrition (GAM) at or above the emergency threshold of 15 percent, with some areas as high as 42 percent.
“More than one million children are currently estimated to be acutely malnourished across South Sudan; over a quarter of a million children are already severely malnourished. If we do not reach these children with urgent aid many of them will die,” said Jeremy Hopkins, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan.
“We urge all parties to allow humanitarian organizations unrestricted access to the affected populations, so we can assist the most vulnerable and prevent yet another humanitarian catastrophe,” he added.
The joint statement pointed out that, FAO, UNICEF and WFP, and other partners, have conducted massive relief operations since the conflict began, and intensified those efforts throughout 2016 to mitigate the worst effects of the humanitarian crisis.
In Northern Bahr El Ghazal state, among others, the IPC assessment team found that humanitarian relief had lessened the risk of famine there, according to the joint statement.
In 2016, WFP said it reached a record 4 million people in South Sudan with food assistance, including cash assistance amounting to US$13.8 million, and more than 265,000 metric tons of food and nutrition supplies. Reportedly, it is the largest number of people assisted by WFP in South Sudan since independence, despite problems resulting from the challenging context.