Millions of people facing hunger in South Sudan will be driven to the brink of catastrophe if renewed flashes of violence derail the fragile peace process, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today, warning that the human costs of recent fighting in Juba will be compounded by deepening hunger across the entire country if peace does not hold.
“In Juba, which hasn't experienced such a level of violence in years, a fragile calm now appears to be holding, but uncertainty grips the city and supplies to food markets have been disrupted,” said FAO Country Representative Serge Tissot.
“And while we hope that the situation will hold, violence may flare up again. If the tenuous peace process falters, the consequences will be widespread and an already dire situation, in which over half the nation's population is food insecure, could get much, much worse,” he added.
The most recent assessment, released last month, showed South Sudan was already in dire straits, with more than 4.8 million people severely food insecure and malnutrition rates rampant. The assessment projected severe food shortages over the months to come and warned of the risk of hunger crises in parts of the country.
A return to stability and the continuation of the peace process are essential to allowing agricultural production to continue and markets to open, emphasized FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.
“The people of the world's youngest nation cannot afford any further instability,” said Mr. Graziano da Silva, adding: “We have to remember that peace and food security are two sides of the same coin – it's the currency that drives development and prosperity. The future of the country depends on the people of South Sudan making a firm and lasting commitment to peace, now.”
Looted agricultural inputs need replacing
FAO is currently assessing the full extent of losses incurred following the violence that erupted last week, when its Juba warehouse was ransacked and stocks of essential supplies like seeds and tools earmarked to help food-insecure people across the country save their livelihoods were looted.
“As the FAO offices in South Sudan remain operational, the continuation of our support to those most in need requires that additional resources be urgently made available to replace what was looted,” said Mr. Tissot.
“Under normal conditions, harvesting of the main maize and sorghum crop would begin in a few weeks' time – planting of a second season would take place over the same period. How well those activities are able to proceed will have a big impact on food security in both the short and the longer term,” he added.
The recent clashes between opposition and government forces have been the most violent in Juba since the end of the country's two-year civil war in August 2015.