The country representative for World Food Program in South Sudan, Matthew Hollingworth, says more people in the country will face hunger this year than ever due to flooding and conflict.
South Sudan is facing its worst flood crisis in 60 years, increased conflict, and the sluggish implementation of the peace agreement that has denied much of the country basic services.
“2021 was the worst year since independence in the 10 years of the life of this country and 2022 will be worse. Food insecurity is at horrific levels,” said Hollingworth.
Several aid officials familiar with the situation noted that preliminary figures suggest 8.5 million people – out of a population of 12 million – will face severe hunger, an increase of 8% from last year. The latest food security report has yet to be released by aid groups and the government.
It is now worse in Fangak county than it was in Pibor last year, when global food security experts said 30,000 Pibor residents were likely in famine.
On visits to three South Sudanese states in December, some civilians and government officials expressed concerns that people were starving to death.
A mother and her child died in Pulpham village in October because they didn’t have food, according to Jeremiah Gatmai, the government’s humanitarian representative.
United Nations estimates that some 1 million people across South Sudan have been affected by the floods. Last year, funding constraints forced the UN to cut food aid in most places by half, which impacted about 3 million people.
Floods in Jonglei state alone have killed more than 250,000 livestock in the past two years, according to the UN agency for food and agriculture.
Residents of Jonglei have fled to neighbouring states seeking food and shelter, but have found little relief. Over 3,000 displaced people were crammed into abandoned buildings or sheltered under trees in Malakal town with no food.
The main cause of hunger is flooding, but the problem is compounded by government deadlock due to power-sharing between the two main political parties.
Local officials in Malakal aligned with the opposition say Kiir Party members undermine them by not allowing them to fire corrupt staff and by blocking appointments of political appointees. This, they said, makes it impossible for them to govern and provide services.
There is also fighting between government and opposition militias in the country’s breadbasket in the southwest, which is adding to the political tensions.
According to Michael Makuei, a spokesman for the government, some relief has been provided, including medical services, but the government can only do so much. “The floods have destroyed crops, what can the government do in that case?” he said.
Observers are becoming increasingly frustrated. In a speech to the U.N. Security Council in December, the head of the U.N. mission in South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, warned that unless all parties renew their political will, the country’s peace deal could collapse.
According to Dr Jill Seaman, who works in Old Fangak with South Sudan Medical Relief and has more than 30 years of local experience: “There are no resources, no harvest, and no cows, so there is nowhere to find food.”
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