Hunger threatens larger population in South Sudan

by Akeem Alao

Food security has worsened significantly in areas hit by floods in South Sudan.

This was disclosed in reports released 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 report explained that Some 6.5 million people in South Sudan – more than half of the population – could be in acute food insecurity at the height of this hunger season.

It was reported that hunger is progressively getting worse in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Warrap and Northern Bar el-Ghazal, with over 1.7 million people facing an emergency level of food insecurity.

It was said that in January, 5.3 million South Sudanese were already struggling to feed themselves, or were in crisis or worse levels of food insecurity.

Despite some seasonal improvements in food production, the number of hungry people remains dangerously high, and keeps rising.

“On top of that, we are now faced with Desert Locust swarms that could make this even worse. It is important that we maintain and scale up our support to the people of South Sudan so they can resume or improve their livelihoods and food production, and boost the government’s capacity to respond to the locust outbreak,” said Meshack Malo, FAO Representative in South Sudan.

Hunger is expected to deepen as of February due mainly to depleted food stocks and high food prices. Overall, the cumulative effects of flooding and related population displacement, localized insecurity, economic crisis, low crop production and prolonged years of asset depletion continue to keep people hungry.

Between 2019 and 2020, the prevalence of acute malnutrition among children slightly increased from 11.7 to 12.6 percent across the country, but the increase has been considerably higher in flood-affected counties – from 19.5 to 23.8 percent in Jonglei, and from 14 to 16.4 percent in Upper Nile.

The situation is attributed to less food being available, and high morbidity – mainly due to contaminated water and an upsurge in malaria from stagnant water.

“Over the years and with support from donors we have become good at treating malnutrition. With support from UNICEF and its partners, 92 per cent of all children suffering from severe acute malnutrition received assistance and more than nine out of ten recovered. Yet, these children shouldn’t be malnourished in the first place. Access to enough food, the right food, water, sanitation, hygiene, and health services are human rights and key to preventing malnutrition. There is a need for a paradigm shift with a multisectoral approach to malnutrition, ensuring we get just as good at prevention as we are at treatment,” said Mohamed Ag Ayoya, the UNICEF Representative in South Sudan.

In 2019, UNICEF and its partners helped an unprecedented number of children in the country – over 200,000 children – recover from severe acute malnutrition.

UNICEF appeals for $253 million to treat more malnourished children and intensify prevention efforts through intersectoral interventions in areas of nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, health and communication for development.

In 2020, WFP plans to assist some 5 million people, providing life-saving food to the most vulnerable, food assistance to communities to build or rehabilitate their assets, school meals and special nutritious products to prevent and treat malnutrition among children and pregnant or nursing women. WFP urgently needs $208 million over the next six months to meet immediate needs and boost people’s resilience. WFP plans to pre-position 190,000 metric tons of food in over 60 warehouses before the onset of the rains in May to save lives and reduce costs, making expensive airdrops unnecessary when many areas become unreachable by road.

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