South Sudan Close to Famine, Facing Toughest Year – Aid Groups Warns

By Deng Machol

Juba – South Sudan is handy to face another famine, country’s humanitarian aid officials said on earlier this week, this came after more than four years of civil war and several failed ceasefires deal to returned stability in the world’s youngest nation.

Jointly statement issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP), the new report warned that progress made to prevent people from dying of hunger could be undone, and more people could be pushed into severe hunger and famine-like conditions during May-July if assistance and access are not made.

According to members of a working group including South Sudanese and U.N. officials, almost two-thirds of the population will need food aid this year to stave off starvation and malnutrition as aid groups prepare for the “toughest year on record.

“The situation is extremely fragile, and we are close to seeing another famine. The projections are stark. If we ignore them, we’ll be faced with a growing tragedy,” said Serge Tissot, from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in South Sudan.

A total of 5.3 million people, 48 percent of the population, are already in “crisis” or “emergency” – stages three and four on a five point scale, according to a survey published by the working group.

The U.N. declared a famine in two districts in February, but said that crisis had started to ease in June last year.

“We are expecting to face the toughest year on record,” U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Alain Noudehou told a press conference in the South Sudanese capital Juba. Records for South Sudan began when it declared independence from Sudan in July, 2011.

Meanwhile, global humanitarian assistance, CARE also warned that more than 5 million people in South Sudan urgently need food assistance.

“What we’re witnessing is beyond human imagination. We’ve seen the hunger in South Sudan get worse every year, and every year agencies like CARE do their best to respond,” says Rosalind Crowther, CARE’s country director in South Sudan.

Particularly at risk, it CARE said, are 155,000 people, including 29,000 children, who are likely to suffer from the most extreme levels of hunger. “But the needs keep growing and we’re seeing more hunger in more places. We’re especially seeing a significant increase in malnutrition among children in communities where CARE is working.”

“Our resources are stretched,” says Crowther. “There’s an urgent need for donors and the humanitarian community to step up our assistance so we can reach more people. If we don’t, the repercussions could be catastrophic.”

The oil-rich east African youngest nation has been torn apart by an ethnically charged civil war since late 2013, when troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and then-Vice President Riek Machar clashed over leadership struggling in the ruling party, known as Sudan People Liberation Movement, SPLM.

Since then, more than 4 million people have been forced to flee their homes, creating Africa’s largest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Many farmers have abandoned their fields for the same reason.

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