The United Nations has warned that a record 7.74 million people, or two-thirds of South Sudan’s population, could face hunger during this year’s weak season between May and July. This is the dangerous period between planting and harvesting when food stocks are at their lowest.
There are an estimated 87,000 of the millions at risk of hunger who will face appalling levels of acute food insecurity during lean periods.
A United Nations analysis released last week in South Sudan warned that many of these people were likely to die of starvation.
This, said Meshak Malo, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization representative in South Sudan, because they would not have the option to feed themselves and their families.
“This can only be overcome with immediate and sustained humanitarian assistance to save lives and re-establish livelihoods so that it can see them through to the next harvest season,” he said.
Speaking to the capital, Juba, Malo said that among those most at risk are about 1.34 million severely malnourished children. He said this year 676,000 pregnant and lactating women are also likely to be malnourished and need special nutritional treatment.
Climate shocks are among the major drivers of food insecurity and extreme hunger in South Sudan. The country has experienced heavy floods for three consecutive years, accompanied by periods of drought. This has severely affected the ability of people to cultivate their land and prevent loss of livestock.
Malo said the ongoing conflict, high food prices and poor access to basic services have also contributed to the dire situation in the country.
“These are compounded by low crop production and livestock diseases, which continue to derail home coping strategies due to the crisis reducing available income opportunities in the country,” he said.
At the heart of this crisis, Malo said, is a lack of peace. South Sudan faced a civil war that officially ended a few years ago but violence persisted in parts of the country.
The FAO representative said investing in peace would yield huge dividends. This, he said, would provide the space and time for people to build the resilience needed to prevent them from falling into severe hunger conditions in homes.
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