Damaged crops combined with conflict and insecurity are threatening to leave some 2.5 million people in South Sudan – the world’s newest country – in critical conditions unless food assistance is provided immediately, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.
“A gathering storm of hunger is approaching South Sudan, caused by crop failure and market disruption,” said WFP Director in South Sudan Chris Nikoi. “Food prices have already doubled or tripled in some areas, leaving hundreds of thousands of children vulnerable to malnutrition at a key developmental stage of their young lives.”
Recent erratic rains have damaged crops, and border closures between Sudan and South Sudan are disrupting food trade, leading to frequent shortages and high food prices. Conflict and insecurity aggravate the situation. South Sudan has been beset by outbreaks of ethnic violence since it became independent in July from Sudan, and the presence of many armed groups and militias across the country, as well as an increase in refugees add further complications.
In a news release issued by the agency, WFP said it would scale up its operation to support 2.7 million hungry and conflict-affected people in 2012. Assistance will include providing highly fortified supplementary foods to more than 500,000 children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.
In addition to emergency assistance, WFP will help communities and families become more self-sufficient and productive through food-for-assets activities, while laying the groundwork for other projects to build longer-term resilience.
WFP stressed that one of the main upcoming challenges will be making supplies accessible as poor infrastructure combined with conflict and growing insecurity – particularly the use of landmines – hinder distribution capabilities. WFP also stressed that timing will be critical since up to 60 per cent of the country will be cut off once the rainy season starts in March and April next year.
The agency estimates it will need emergency funds of about $92 million to address hunger needs in South Sudan in the first four months of next year.