Desperate hunger, but no famine, in South Sudan

2015-05-28 07:52
A grab made from a video released by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) shows displaced people in a camp in Bentiu. (AFP PHOTO / HO / UNMISS)

A grab made from a video released by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) shows displaced people in a camp in Bentiu. (AFP PHOTO / HO / UNMISS)

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Juba - Millions of people are going hungry in South Sudan 17-months after civil war began, with conditions predicted to deteriorate, according to the latest food security assessment released on Wednesday.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) carried out by the United Nations and aid agencies found that 4.6 million people will need emergency food aid in the months ahead. One million of those will be classified as being in "emergency", one step before famine.

"The deepening food insecurity is a result of protracted conflict and insecurity," the report stated, adding that high food prices, inflation and a depreciating currency were exacerbating the situation.

Currently the hungriest parts of the country are northern Jonglei and southern Upper Nile, two of the three states that have seen the worst of the fighting and displacement of populations.

But even the state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal is facing acute hunger, despite being largely unaffected by conflict.

South Sudan's civil war began in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of planning a coup. Since then peace talks and threats of sanctions have failed to end the conflict which has worsened in recent weeks.

In the months leading up to July, the situation is expected to deteriorate with emergency levels of hunger found in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states and close to 40 percent of the country's population in need of food aid.

"Millions of people in South Sudan are trapped by a terrible mix of brutal conflict, rising hunger and a deepening economic crisis," said Joyce Luma, the head of the World Food Programme (WFP) in South Sudan.

WFP, the UN agency responsible for supplying life-saving food to starving people in disaster zones, said it faced a lack of funding just as demand for its help was rising.

Air dropped

"The needs are overwhelming at a time when resources are short," said Luma.

Lack of basic road infrastructure in South Sudan means that food often has to be air dropped or delivered by river barge to reach needy people uprooted by the ongoing fighting.

WFP said it faced a funding shortfall of $230m even before the latest hunger assessment said the number at risk was rising.

Aid agency Oxfam repeated appeals for the warring parties to halt the fighting.

"Fear and fighting are forcing people from their homes, preventing them from planting food crops and feeding their families," said country director Zlatko Gegic. "The people of South Sudan desperately need an immediate end to this war."

Since the start, civilians have borne the brunt of the fighting. A year ago famine was averted in the three states most affected by the war only after a huge intervention by aid agencies.

Read more on:    oxfam  |  wfp  |  salva kiir  |  south sudan  |  east africa

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