Monday, February 20, 2017
100,000 South Sudanese facing starvation
About 100,000 people are facing starvation in parts of South Sudan, the United Nations warned on Monday.
A formal declaration of famine means people have already began dying of hunger, the UN said.
Monday's declaration was the first issued by the UN since it announced in 2011 that famine was underway in parts of Somalia.
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 was done to curb the severity and spread of the food crisis, said a joint statement by FAO, Unicef and WFP.
According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) update released on Monday by the government, the three agencies and other humanitarian partners, 4.9 million people – more than 40 per cent of South Sudan’s population – were in need of urgent food, agriculture and nutrition assistance.
Unimpeded humanitarian access to everyone facing famine, or at risk of famine, was urgently needed to reverse the escalating catastrophe, the UN agencies urged.
"Famine has become a tragic reality in parts of South Sudan and our worst fears have been realised,” said Mr Serge Tissot, the FAO representative in the country.
“Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive," Mr Tissot noted, saying the three-year-long civil war had severely disrupted agriculture.
“Insecurity, displacement, poor access to services, extremely poor diet (in terms of both quality and quantity), low coverage of sanitation facilities and deplorable hygiene practices are underlying the high levels of acute malnutrition,” the update noted.
"This famine is man-made,” declared Ms Joyce Luma, the South Sudan director for WFP.
Aid organisations have been conducting a massive relief operation in South Sudan, Ms Luma noted, but she added: “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.”
At least 57 aid workers have been killed in South Sudan since the outbreak of civil war, the UN said last August.
Failure to halt the fighting in South Sudan has pushed the country to an economic breakdown.
An annual inflation rate of 800 per cent has reduced access to food for many South Sudanese reliant on market purchases, the UN said.
The Unicef representative for South Sudan, Mr Jeremy Hopkins, also raised an alarm over malnutrition saying it was a major public health emergency that was exacerbated by the widespread fighting, displacement, poor access to health services and low coverage of sanitation facilities.
“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,” Mr Jeremy said.