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Famine strikes, say South Sudan and aid agencies

February 21 - 2017 JUBA
Yida refugee camp in Unity state, South Darfur (samaritanspurse.org)
Yida refugee camp in Unity state, South Darfur (samaritanspurse.org)

The South Sudanese government and humanitarian agencies have declared a famine in parts of the country. The international children's charity Save the Children warned that more than one million children risk starvation, as a famine is declared in Unity state.

A further one million people in the country are classified as being on the brink of famine, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the World Food Programme (WFP). In a joint statement on Monday the agencies warn that urgent action is needed. “If sustained and adequate assistance is delivered urgently, the hunger situation can be improved in the coming months and further suffering mitigated.”

Unimpeded humanitarian access to everyone facing famine, or at risk of famine, is urgently needed to reverse the escalating catastrophe.

The latest government and Famine Early Warning Systems figures predict that 4.9 million people – more than 40 percent of South Sudan's population – will be in a food crisis across the country, many of them close to famine level, between now and April. That figure is expected to jump to 5.5 million people at the height of the lean season in July.

The UN Mission in South Sudan said that 100,000 people “are already starving” in the country, while in some areas in the northern Unity state more than 30 percent of the population is suffering from acute malnutrition.

This is “the worst hunger catastrophe” since fighting erupted more than three years ago – UN agencies

Save the Children said that South Sudanese children, particularly under-fives, are the most at risk of dying as they are less able to withstand acute malnutrition and are more susceptible to diseases such as measles, malaria and cholera.

“While the threat of a famine in South Sudan has been looming for months, the worst-case scenario has now become a devastating reality in parts of the country. In the coming months, famine could spread to other parts of the country, where millions of vulnerable children and families now risk starving to death,” said Pete Walsh, Save the Children’s Country Director in South Sudan.

Starting the outbreak of renewed fighting in Juba in July last year, the conflict has now spread to other parts of the country including Central and Eastern Equatoria. “As well as directly destroying crops, the conflict has caused farmers to flee their homes, preventing them from planting or harvesting,” said Walsh. The humanitarian crisis in South Sudan has spiralled since fighting between forces allied to President Salva Kiir and forces of Riek Machar erupted in 2013, with more than three million people, including more than 9,000 unaccompanied children, fleeing the conflict and seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, according to Save the Children.

(Source: Radio Tamazuj)


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