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3.7 million in South Sudan face severe hunger crisis

Woman sits with food aid, in the north of South Sudan.
Woman sits with food aid, in the north of South Sudan.

Hunger looms over South Sudan. World leaders have spent the past few weeks trying to raise the alarm to garner enough public attention and funding to prevent a hunger crisis.

Some 7 million people are at risk of food insecurity. The UN launched a $230 million appeal in early April to respond to the problem. Then there are the 3.7 million people, nearly one out of every three people in South Sudan, that are at severe risk of hunger.

Fighting in South Sudan since December is responsible for displacing more than 1 million people from their homes. The upcoming rainy season is a vital time for food security because it is when crops are usually planted. It is also the period when food stocks from the previous harvest season begin to run out.

The ongoing fighting and instability has disrupted the country, meaning that some will miss the planting season due to a lack of resources or other factors. A missed or poor planting season would put people already struggling at greater risk, especially young children.

UNICEF warned that as many as 50,000 children could die if the international response in South Sudan does not gain the necessary support. A total of $1.27 billion is necessary to respond to the totality of the crisis in South Sudan, says the UN. Only 36% of the funding has been raised so far. The pleas to act now to prevent hunger hope to revive funding for the response.

The US, EU and UN rushed to sign a call to action for the country in Washington over the weekend. Representatives from the three groups gathered to pledge $80 million for South Sudan. That is in addition to the $100 million that was pledged in the prior week. The money will be used to reach the nearly 5 million people who need assistance because of the ongoing crisis in South Sudan.

“We know that if we work together we can deal with this challenge,” said UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, at the signing. “But we also know that without improved and significant resourcing now, we face a situation next year where South Sudan is in an even worse situation than it is right now.”

South Sudan Humanitarian update 10 April

An OpEd from the New York Times editorial board urged donors to provide immediate assistance to prevent starvation in South Sudan. The board called out the world’s wealthy nations that are often absent from humanitarian assistance.

“In 2013 and 2014, for instance, America has funneled $411 million in humanitarian aid to South Sudan. China and Russia, the second- and eighth-largest economies, hardly ever appear on these lists. They should join the rest of the world in making sure that South Sudan’s people have enough to eat,” they wrote.

Attempts to stop fighting in South Sudan have found little success. Rebels, led by former vice president Riek Machar, seized the town of Bentiu, located in the second largest oil producing state in South Sudan. The opposition forces ordered oil producers in the country to shut down within the week. Machar hopes that stopping oil production will cut off a vital income source for the government.

In addition to making aid available, the international community is trying to place pressure on all involved in the fighting to come to a resolution.

“It is a grave concern that the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement continues to be violated by both sides. Let me be very clear, there is no military solution to this political crisis. It can only be resolved at the negotiation table,” said Hilde F. Johnson Special Representative of UN Secretary- General and Head of UN Mission in South Sudan, late last week.

In an interview Monday, U.S. Special Envoy to South Sudan and Sudan Donald Booth made it clear that the US would apply sanctions to anyone standing in the way of peace in South Sudan.

“We do not want to see the people of South Sudan face famine or major disease outbreaks. We want to try to get a handle on this… We need to get the fighting stopped, we need to get the cessation of hostilities respected, including the delivery of humanitarian assistance,” said Booth in an interview with South Sudan in Focus.

“As I have continually warned, for those who continue to obstruct the peace process, we will take action.”


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]