Hunger could threaten over four million in South Sudan

9 Feb 2012

Hunger could threaten over four million in South Sudan

8 February 2012 - Millions of people in South Sudan will face hunger this year unless urgent action is taken, according to a UN report issued today.

The number of food-insecure people has jumped from 3.3 million in 2011 to 4.7 million in 2012, according to the joint report of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

The report estimates that one million people who are severely food-insecure could double if conflict continues to cause major population displacements and food prices keep rising.

Poor harvests, increased demand, rapidly rising prices, conflict, displacement and a large number of returnees have all contributed to the situation, with a shortfall in cereal production weighing heavily on already distressed communities, the report states.

"This is a rapidly approaching crisis that the world cannot afford to ignore," said Chris Nikoi, WFP's country director in South Sudan. "The situation is dire, and we are doing everything we can to be ready, but we are running out of time."

George Okeh, FAO's South Sudan Head of Office, stressed that the cycle of increasing hunger and poverty must be broken. "We can do this by helping people to resume the farming, livestock and other activities that support their livelihoods."

Poor rainfall in the early season was largely responsible for the lower harvest, with ongoing conflict disrupting normal agricultural activities. "The resulting limited food supply comes at a time of significantly increased demand from the influx of returning South Sudanese from the north, and people displaced by conflict," said a statement issued by the FAO and WFP.

Normally, markets would have supplemented the food supply, but border crossings linking South Sudan with Sudan have been closed, cutting the flow of goods. And costs for food from neighbouring countries have soared, due to long distances over poor roads, high fuel costs and depreciation of the South Sudanese pound.

WFP's emergency operation in 2012 aims to reach some 2.7 million vulnerable people with 150,000 metric tons of food. The agency is seeking donor support to cover the current shortfall of $160 million.

FAO will provide agricultural support to revive production capacity for the next cropping season, which begins with the first rains in April and continues until June.

FAO is seeking $23 million in donor support through the UN Consolidated Appeal Process.

The FAO-WFP report, Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission to South Sudan, is based on a joint mission conducted in South Sudan between October and November 2011, at the request of the government of South Sudan's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.