Peace and massive aid injection needed to prevent food insecurity reaching disastrous levels in South Sudan
Peace, increased security and an immediate massive injection of humanitarian assistance is needed to prevent food insecurity reaching unprecedented levels in the conflict-afflicted country of South Sudan.
A new report into food security, released in the capital Juba, has found that the number of people suffering from acute food insecurity has reached one million, a 40 per cent increase compared to January 2017.
The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification report found that 5.3 million people are now food insecure to “crisis or emergency levels”. Without humanitarian assistance these figures are likely to rise to 6.3 million in the coming months, and 7.1 million by May-July this year. Representing almost two thirds of the South Sudanese population, this would be the highest ever incidence of food insecurity recorded in the country.
Worse still: an estimated 155,000 people, 29,000 of whom would be children, could find themselves facing famine come May and the start of the rainy season.
The report determines food security by analyzing food consumption levels, changes in earning capacity, nutritional status of available food and mortality. This analysis is triangulated with other factors such as availability of, and access to food, and the vulnerability of the food supply. It essentially takes the ‘temperature’ of how food insecurity is evolving in a country. There are five phases, with phase 3 being “crisis”, 4 representing “emergency” and 5 “catastrophe” or “famine”.
There was broad consensus among those launching the report that the driver of the current food insecurity crisis situation in South Sudan is the ongoing, protracted, man-made conflict and its multiple dire consequences.
“If there was peace and a secure situation, displaced people could return to where they came from and start producing food,” said Alain Noudéhou, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator in the country.
“The main problem continues to be the security situation, which has led to decreased food production. We can only advocate for peace and stability to improve the conditions for farming,” Serge Tissot, the Representative of the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, added.
Large-scale humanitarian assistance, in combination with harvests and seasonal availability of fish and other sources of nutrition, led to a slight improvement in terms of food security between September 2017 and January 2018. The report, announced by the National Bureau of Statistics and different food security stakeholders in South Sudan, estimates that aid efforts prevented a worsened situation in 17 counties across the country.
There is now an urgent need for additional funding to avert a serious food crisis. The UN’s 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan calls for USD 1.72 billion to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to some six million people. As of 23 February, a mere 5.5 per cent of this sum has been received.
“Immediate funding is urgently needed, particularly to scale up the response during the limited window offered by the dry season. If we don’t act now, the cost of response operations through the wet season will be much higher and the potential cost to human life devastating,” warned Alain Noudéhou, adding that the cost of food reaching remote areas by air may be up to 12 times higher than deliveries by road.
The World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are all currently making efforts to preposition food commodities and other essential supplies across the country while roads are still passable.
“We are planning to preposition 140,000 metric tons of food and nutritious supplies in more than 50 locations across the country,” said Steve Nsubuga, Deputy Country Director of WFP.
The resources needed by WFP, UNICEF and FAO before the onset of the rainy season in April or May amounts to approximately USD 128 million.
“But humanitarian assistance is not a sustainable solution in the long term. This country needs peace and security to avoid future crisis situations,” Mr. Nsubuga stressed.
Mr. Noudéhou echoed these sentiments, calling on all parties to the conflict to stay committed to bring peace to South Sudan and to make humanitarian assistance possible.
“They [all parties] must ensure that the operating environment is conducive to the delivery of aid by ensuring free, safe and unhindered access to all areas,” the Deputy SRSG concluded.