Up to 4.8 million people will face severe food shortage over the coming months in South Sudan, three United Nations agencies warned.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) pointed out that while the deteriorating situation coincided with an unusually long and harsh annual lean season, the level of food insecurity this year is unprecedented.
According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification update, 4.8 million people are projected to be in need of urgent food, agriculture and nutrition assistance through July, up from 4.3 million in April.
This is the highest level of hunger since the conflict in South Sudan started two-and-a-half years ago. This number does not include 350,000 residents of the UN Protection of Civilians areas or other camps for displaced people, who are entirely dependent on assistance.
“We are very worried to see that food insecurity is spreading beyond conflict areas as rising prices, impassable roads and dysfunctional markets are preventing many families, even those in towns and cities, from accessing food,” said FAO Country Representative Serge Tissot.
Food insecurity and conflict are also forcing many families to leave South Sudan for neighbouring countries. In the past few months, an estimated 100,000 South Sudanese people have crossed into Sudan, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. The number is expected to increase to more than 150,000 by the end of June.
“The levels of malnutrition among children continue to be truly alarming,” said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan.
“We are now seeing sharp spikes of need in new areas, such as Eastern Equatoria or Western Bahr el-Ghazal, where malnutrition rates in some places are reaching dangerous levels. We have started ramping up food and nutrition support, but much more is needed to keep things from deteriorating even further during the lean season,” said WFP Country Director Joyce Luma.