The UN World Food Programme (WFP) on Tuesday said that food assistance to 1.7 million people in South Sudan has been suspended citing a funding crunch and rising needs.
The suspension of aid comes at the worst possible time for the people of South Sudan as the country faces a year of unprecedented hunger.
Over 60% of the population are grappling with severe food insecurity during the lean season, fuelled by continuing conflict, severe flooding, localized drought, and soaring food prices exacerbated by the crisis in Ukraine, which is affecting the supplies of food products around the world.
The agency said that had left humanitarians essentially in ‘famine-prevention mode”.
Adeyinka Badejo-Sanogo, WFP Acting Country Director in South Sudan, said they had planned to provide food assistance to 6.2 million people this year, “but faced with increasing humanitarian needs and insufficient funding, we have taken the painful step to suspend food assistance to 1.7 million people.
“These are people that are experiencing emergency and crisis levels of food insecurity, what we call IPC4 and IPC3.”
The WFP official explained that more than two in three people are experiencing a serious humanitarian and protection crisis and need help to survive.
Of these, she estimated that 8.3 million people, including internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, “will endure acute severe hunger during the lean season.”
The development comes as communities prepare for a fourth consecutive year of flash-flooding, which has left vast stretches of ground sodden and fields unusable, particularly in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states.
In 2021, one million people fled their homes because of the flooding in South Sudan. This year, it’s estimated that approximately 600,000 are in the path of expanding flood waters and at risk of displacement.
“We are expecting a fourth year of massive flooding based on forecasts of an above-average rainfall, adding on to stagnant waters that have not receded from previous years,” said Ms. Badejo-Sanogo.
There is particular concern because the cutbacks are happening at the start of the lean season. “Families have completely exhausted any food reserves and are likely to continue to suffer acute levels of hunger as the lean season deepens,” the WFP official said. “Essentially, WFP in South Sudan, we are in ‘famine-prevention’ mode.”
Chronic levels of violence in parts of South Sudan continues to drive displacement and vulnerability, Ms. Badejo-Sanogo continued. In late April, additional UN peacekeepers were deployed to Leer county, after a surge in rapes, beheadings, civilians being burned alive and attacks on humanitarians.
“The political and security context in South Sudan remains volatile and it continues to aggravate the lives of communities,” the WFP official explained.
“So far this year, we have seen 200,000 people newly displaced as a result of conflicts. And with displacement comes disruption in lives and livelihoods. And WFP, we’re at a situation where we simply do not have the resources to respond to new emergencies.”
Without fresh funding, WFP has warned that more vulnerable people will have revert to survival strategies such as skipping or reducing meals, selling assets, sending their children to work and child marriage.
To support crisis response and resilience-building, the UN agency requires US$426 million to reach six million food insecure people over the next six months. (Source: UN News)