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Famine in South Sudan Looms

famine in south sudan
On July 9, South Sudan celebrated its third anniversary as a country. However, that celebration was marred by predictions that the country may soon be facing famine-like conditions if its food crisis continues to worsen in the coming months.

As of now, 1.2 million South Sudanese receive emergency humanitarian assistance, but another 2 million who need aid are unable to receive it, as roads have become inaccessible due to armed conflict. That conflict began in December 2013 when government and rebel forces began to clash. To date, more than 1 million people have been forced to leave their homes as a result of the fighting. It is estimated that over 300,000 of those refugees have fled to neighboring Ethiopia and Uganda, considerably decreasing the host countries’ resources and planting the seeds for future tensions.

Further exacerbating the food crisis is the fact that a large number of displaced farmers have been unable to harvest crops due to the fighting. Their absence, coupled with dwindling funding for humanitarian groups in South Sudan, has created a dire need for intervention.

On July 5, the International Red Cross conducted its first air drops of supplies since 1998 in Afghanistan. The air drops occurred in Leer where 40 tons of seeds and emergency food supplies were provided — enough to supply 1,100 families. However, this assistance can only be viewed as a temporary fix to a long gestating problem. It is estimated that there are 3.7 million people in South Sudan at risk for acute food insecurity as the threat of famine in South Sudan lingers.

The delicate nature of the country’s economy has hindered South Sudan’s ability to help itself. An oil exportation dispute with Sudan in 2012 led to South Sudan ceasing its oil production for an extended period, essentially toppling its opportunity to reach the expectations of economic improvement the international community sought. Now, with the civil war raging on, oil production has again been interrupted in parts of the country as its currency continues to be devalued and inflation remains on the rise.

South Sudan is in dire need of aid. The Red Cross’s support has been helpful, but only temporary. The instability of the country has repeatedly thwarted its efforts to develop. As the country’s food supplies continue to dwindle, only time will tell how this crisis will be resolved.

– Taylor Dow

Sources: United Nations Development Programme, BBC News, The Guardian, NBC News
Photo: FAO