Girl in South Sudan: 1 million people in the country are classified as being on the brink of famine. (UN Photo/ JC McIlwaine)

‘Man Made’ Famine Declared In South Sudan: ‘Families Have Exhausted Every Means They Have To Survive’

A FAMINE has been declared in South Sudan today: some 100,000 people are facing starvation in the country that has been battered by war and a collapsing economy.

A further 1 million people are classified as being on the brink of famine, a statement from the The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned.

The 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 theIntegrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) updatereleased today by the government, the three agencies and other humanitarian partners, 4.9 million people – more than 40% of South Sudan’s population – are in need of urgent food, agriculture and nutrition assistance. The magnitude of these food insecure populations is unprecedented, the report states.

Famine is currently affecting parts of Unity State in the northern-central part of the country. A formal famine declaration means people have already started dying of hunger. The situation is 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.”

PUBLIC HEATH EMERGENCY

Malnutrition is a major public health emergency, exacerbated by the widespread fighting, displacement, poor access to health services and low coverage of sanitation facilities. 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%.

“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.”

“This famine is man-made. WFP and the entire humanitarian community have been trying with all our might to avoid this catastrophe, mounting a humanitarian response of a scale that quite frankly would have seemed impossible three years ago. But we have also warned that there is only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in the absence of meaningful peace and security, both for relief workers and the crisis-affected people they serve,” said WFP Country Director Joyce Luma. “We will continue doing everything we possibly can to hold off and reverse the spread of famine.”

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