18 Dec South Sudan faces ‘catastrophic’ famine unless conflict ended
18 Dec 2020
Parts of South Sudan are facing a “catastrophic” conflict-fuelled famine, humanitarian groups warned on Friday.
Three UN agencies have called for a halt to violence to allow urgent access to parts of Jonglei state, where they said people have already run out of food because of insecurity, flooding and the coronavirus pandemic.
“We call on all parties to stop the violence and to ensure safe humanitarian access in order to prevent an already dire situation from turning into a full-blown catastrophe,” said Meshack Malo, representative in South Sudan for the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Mohamed Ayoya, representative in South Sudan for the UN children’s agency, Unicef, added: “We are extremely concerned about the increased numbers of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. These children need urgent treatment to prevent them from dying.”
A joint statement by the UN agencies, including the World Food Programme, said 6.5 million people in South Sudan were facing severe food insecurity and the number could increase by almost a million by July.
Last month the UN earmarked $7m (£5.2m) in emergency funding to try to avert famine in South Sudan.
A recent review of six counties in South Sudan by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification concluded that parts of Pibor county, in Jonglei state, were probably already experiencing famine.
Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap states were said to be on the brink of famine.
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James Wani, Christian Aid’s South Sudan country director, said: “Floods, conflict and Covid-19 have entwined to deliver devastation and fuel the food crisis; the combined result is the destruction of crops, livelihoods, houses and dwellings, roads have become impassable, markets have stopped, supply chains have been crippled and food prices have soared.”
Both flooding and fighting have made it difficult to deliver aid to struggling areas. Current levels of aid would not be enough to avert famine, Christian Aid said.
The charity called on Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to push for humanitarian access to the affected areas, as well as the implementation of a 2018 UN resolution condemning the intentional starving of civilians by warring sides.
Christian Aid senior adviser Jane Backhurst said a massive, renewed push was needed to implement the peace process in South Sudan.
The head of the UN’s South Sudan mission, David Shearer, told the security council this week that progress on the peace deal continues to stagnate while violence affected much of the country.
Around 2,000 people have been killed in intercommunal violence during the past year, including at least 600 deaths in Jonglei state.
Shearer warned that a surge in violence was likely during the approaching dry season. He said nine humanitarian workers had been killed in 2020.
In February, South Sudan’s government and opposition parties announced a transitional government after years of fighting. However, localised conflicts have continued.