3.9 million people in South Sudan facing severe hunger, says UN report

An analysis shows that at least 30,000 people are living in extreme conditions and are facing starvation and death

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 23 October 2015

According to the UN, record-high food prices will affect the purchasing power of the people and worsen food insecurity levels in South Sudan
Credit: DFID photostream/Flickr

Top United Nations (UN) agencies have warned of a catastrophic situation in South Sudan, where people are facing extreme hunger. According to a report, 3.9 million people across the nation are facing severe hunger and tens of thousands are on the brink of famine.

In view of this alarming situation, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have urged the immediate granting of access to Unity State (one of the states of South Sudan).

A newly-released Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis shows that at least 30,000 people are living in extreme conditions and are facing starvation and death.

Dismal situation

Since the war in South Sudan started nearly two years ago, it is for the first time that the IPC analysis has found any parts of the population in phase five (“catastrophe”) on the five-point IPC scale.

“This is the start of the harvest and we should be seeing a significant improvement in the food security situation across the country, but unfortunately this is not the case in places like southern Unity State, where people are on the edge of a catastrophe that can be prevented,” said WFP Country Director Joyce Luma.

“The people of South Sudan need peace, nutritious food and other humanitarian assistance and livelihood support to survive and rebuild their lives,” she added.

Possibility of famine

Unless humanitarian access is granted, food insecurity can deteriorate to famine in parts of Unity State, the UN agencies said. In this part of the country, assistance has been hampered by violence and lack of access in recent months. The situation is so bad that some displaced families are surviving on just one meal a day consisting of fish and water lilies.

“Since fighting broke out nearly two years ago, children have been plagued by conflict, disease, fear and hunger,” said Jonathan Veitch, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan.

IPC analysis indicates although the number of food-insecure households has decreased—as expected—during the harvest season, it is almost 80 per cent higher than in the same period last year.

The IPC highlights that the overall nutrition situation remains critical, with Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) among children under 5 above the emergency threshold in the conflict-affected states of Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity in September and high in Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap throughout the year.

This high prevalence has been attributed to inadequate food consumption, poor maternal and child feeding practices, illnesses and limited delivery of health and nutrition services.

The agencies have warned that the dire economic situation in the country is contributing to record-high food prices that affect the purchasing power of people and worsen food insecurity levels.

“Livelihoods have been severely affected by high inflation rates, market disruption, conflict-related displacement, and loss of livestock and agricultural production, said Serge Tissot, the Head of FAO in South Sudan.

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