SOUTH SUDAN Famine declared – Pope and UN appeal for emergency aid
Years of civil war, a refugee crisis and a collapsing economy have taken their toll on South Sudan, which only gained its independence in 2011. Since early 2017, parts of South Sudan have been experiencing a famine following several years of instability in the country’s food supply caused by war and drought.
On Monday, 20 Feb the South Sudan government officially declared a famine in different parts of the country. Aid agencies say 100,000 people are on the verge of starvation and almost 5 million people, more than 40% of the country’s population, need urgent help. The UN World Food Programme warned that more than a million children are already suffering from acute malnutrition.The famine is largely focused in the northern part of the country but food shortages are expected to spread by the middle of this year.
“Our worst fears have been realized,” said Serge Tissot, of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive.”
Farming was disrupted by the war, forcing people to scavenge for food to survive. “People have been pushed to the brink, [they are] surviving on what they can find to eat in swamps,” said Emma Jane Drew, humanitarian program manager in South Sudan for Oxfam .
Pope Francis has issued an urgent appeal, saying that is imperative that food aid reaches those on the verge of dying from starvation in South Sudan right away:
“Of particular concern is the painful news coming from the battered southern Sudan, where a fratricidal conflict is compounded by a severe food crisis, which, through starvation, condemns to death millions of people, including many children.”
“At this time it is more necessary than ever, that everyone commits not just to making statements, but to providing concrete food aid and allowing that it can reach suffering populations. May the Lord sustain these brothers and those working to help them.”
George Fominyen, the UN food programme spokesman in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, said the problem had been building for years: “It has not been sudden. Food insecurity, hunger, malnutrition has been getting steadily worse since the conflict started three years ago.”
Fomiyen warned that the programme’s food supplies will run out unless it can secure “a substantial injection of funds” — $205 million — within the next six months.
“We are quite concerned that we do not have the resources,” he said. “We could run out of food by the end of June. The needs are so huge.”
Fomiyen added that humanitarian groups had found it extremely difficult to reach the hardest-hit areas. Aid agencies say the famine is “a man-made tragedy” and called for an end to the fighting so aid could get through to those most in need.