Food Insecurity in South SudanThe North African country of South Sudan is currently facing its worst hunger crisis to date. Estimations indicate that close to 8.5 million people out of the nation’s total population of 12 million people “will face severe hunger” in 2022, marking an 8% spike from 2021. There are several reasons for the worsening levels of food insecurity in South Sudan.

Issues Contributing to Food Insecurity in South Sudan

South Sudan’s most recent civil war, beginning in December 2013 and ending in February 2020, is one of the many reasons for the major food insecurity in South Sudan, among other issues. According to Oxfam International, the war caused an “economic free–fall,” leading to rising food prices and a crumbling economy. Furthermore, food stocks have diminished and harvests are poor due to extreme weather conditions.

The country is facing “the worst floods in 60 years,” affecting close to 1 million people and serving as a significant contributor to food insecurity in South Sudan. In just seven months, from May 2021 to December 2021, about 800,000 South Sudanese people endured the impacts of “record flooding” within the country. The floods have not only destroyed lands where crops were growing but have also led to the loss of a quarter million “livestock in Jonglei state alone.” The floods also swept away vital supplies such as fishing nets, impacting people relying on fishing in waterways as a means of securing food sources.

Along with the devastating floods, in 2021, the United Nations had to cut its food aid by about 50% due to reduced funding and increased costs of food. This reduction in the amount of food aid from the United Nations alone affects more than three million people.

Extreme Measures and Potential Collapse

To prevent starvation, families are resorting to extreme measures such as “ground-up water lilies” as their only meal of the day. Other people living in hunger have attempted to flee to other towns and states in search of food and shelter.

Further compounding the issue of food insecurity in South Sudan is “government deadlock as the country’s two main political parties try to share power.” Resistance among the political groups to work together is a cause of concern for the head of the United Nations mission in South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, who warns of “a collapse in the country’s peace deal” if parties cannot find common ground in the political arena.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

One of the organizations working to help end food insecurity in South Sudan is the WFP. The WFP is currently employing a variety of methods to get food to the millions of South Sudanese people enduring food insecurity. These methods “include airdrops, all-terrain vehicles, river barges and SCOPE registration.”

The WFP utilizes airdrops as a last resort to deliver food to the most “dangerous and inaccessible” locations in South Sudan where safe road travel is not possible. The WFP also utilizes SHERPs, a type of all-terrain vehicle, to deliver food supplies to isolated areas where travel is challenging but still possible. The SHERPs can traverse the most adverse roads, go over obstacles and “float across water” in flooded areas.

The WFP also uses river barges that run along the Nile River to transport food to families who live in areas where there are no roads. Lastly, the WFP uses SCOPE, which is a blockchain service employed to “register and document people who receive food assistance” from the WFP. SCOPE helps workers to track the individuals receiving assistance and record each person’s “nutrition and health status” and determine full recovery and treatment success.

Looking Ahead

Although the situation in South Sudan is dire and experts predict these circumstances will worsen, many organizations are committing to providing as much aid as possible to South Sudanese people facing the devastating impacts of several disasters. By supporting these organizations, even an ordinary individual can make a difference in reducing food insecurity in South Sudan.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in South Sudan
Since the country’s independence in 2011, South Sudan has been in a state of instability as it recovered from a six-year-long conflict with Sudan. This instability has had quite an effect on the nation’s nutrition, with 51% of the country’s total population reporting food shortages in 2020. Some of the main causes of the continued food insecurity in South Sudan include flooding due to poor land management, destruction of agriculture and businesses due to conflict, elevated food prices and lack of access to livestock products that would enable citizens to cultivate a reliable food source. Additionally, the ever-present conflict in the area often prevents people from being mobile, meaning they are unable to search for food, find better agricultural land or access markets that may be nearby.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

Despite this situation, many humanitarian organizations have allocated resources towards fighting food insecurity in South Sudan, including the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP). The effort provides direct food aid to roughly 5.32 million South Sudanese people. Each year, the WFP transports 325,000 metric tons of food into 50 warehouses across the country, helping to fill the large gaps in domestic agricultural production.

The U.N.’s program has also introduced a new means of efficiently and evenly distributing aid called SCOPE, a database in which individual aid recipients register by fingerprint. The database records who receives food and how much, and even tracks an individual’s health and nutrition levels, noting when signs of malnutrition cease or appear. So far, the SCOPE system alone has registered 1.4 million people. Since 2018, the U.N. has also administered over $30 million USD in vouchers that one can redeem in exchange for food through the SCOPE system.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Similarly, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been working with farmers to boost domestic crop production in hopes of reducing food insecurity in South Sudan. Due to constant displacement and poor land quality, creating a strong agricultural sector has proven to be challenging for the nation.

However, FAO’s program works to distribute seeds and hand tools. Moreover, it conducts land assessments across the nation to determine which plots might produce the highest yield. As a result, the cultivated land area increased by 15% from 2017 to 2018, and cereal production rose 10% from 2018 to 2019. In 2018, the program also began its seed distribution effort, administering 5,970 metric tons of seeds across the nation, benefiting 406,408 households.

Action Against Hunger

Nonprofit organization Action Against Hunger has also worked alongside the U.N.’s efforts to reduce food insecurity in South Sudan. The organization has worked with 7,215 farming families, with a focus on dyke and irrigation system construction to ensure farms are resistant to the region’s heavy flooding.

Additionally, volunteers and locals constructed and/or rehabilitated 5,000 water points, where people can easily access potable water and plumbing. In an effort to solve the issue of lack of mobility in the nation, Action Against Hunger also constructed 71 kilometers of roads, which allow the average South Sudanese person to access markets, clinics and other vital services.

Without intensive aid from humanitarian organizations, the state of food insecurity in South Sudan would be much worse than the recent statistics show. As the nation builds its foundations and recovers from its violent past, access to nutrition will undoubtedly become more widely available. However, with more than half the population unable to fill their stomachs each day, much work is still necessary.

– Jane Dangel
Photo: Flickr