Famine in South Sudan
The World Today/Anna Barker (excerpted)
South Sudan has declared a famine in parts of the country’s south.
100,000 people are at risk of starvation, and one million are on the brink of famine.
Civil war has raged in South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, since 2013.
If a population can’t find enough food it’s not strictly a famine. Nor is it famine of one third of the population is severely malnourished.
The United Nations’ definition of famine is when three conditions coincide: at lease 20 percent of a population faces extreme food shortages, 30 percent of people experience acute malnutrition, and at least two people per 10,000 die every day.
This week both the UN and the World Food Program agreed with South Sudan’s decision to declare a state of famine in parts of the country’s south.
Not only has is struggled with severe drought, but three years of civil war, a failed peace agreement, and now economic collapse have placed 100,000 people in the country’s south at risk of starvation and a further one million people on the brink of famine.
As with most disasters or conflicts, women and children make up a disproportionate number of those at risk of dying.
“People are just dispersing immediately without anything, certainly without the agriculture they have been harvesting,” said James Elder, a spokesman from UNICEF who has visited South Sudan many times.
“Sometimes a mother will run one way and a child will run the other under serious fire.” “Suddenly you’ve got people who are walking away from their food sources, and they’re fleeing 50 to 100, 300 kilometers across the country into areas that may be barren and have no access to food and no access to water,” he said.
Mothers walk for weeks to find food.
Only a few years ago the world had high hopes for the future of South Sudan when it became the world’s newest nation in 2011.
South Sudanese refugees around the world- including many in Australia- returned home in the hope of seeing their young country prosper. But it wasn’t to be.
Civil war broke out in 2013 after President Salva Kii sacked his deputy. What began as a political conflict spilled into ethnic fighting which has since spread through much of the country.
Tens of thousands have died, at least three million people have been forced from their homes, and many are now living in UN refugee camps around the country. One and a half million have fled across the border to neighboring countries.
Mr. Elder said he knows of mothers who have walked for weeks trying to find food for their children, only to watch them die.
“They’ve lived off grass or lilies or bulbs, and they’ve finally reached safety somewhere but it’s too late,” he said. “She gets to a clinic but within 24 hours she watches her child die.”
Another five million South Sudanese are expected to become food insecure by April. (Supplied: UNICEF)
“This is currently the largest refugee crisis in Africa and the third largest in the world and there is a complete lack of international attention on this crisis that is unfolding,” says Jesse Kamstra from the Lutheran World Federation.
“When we talk about 100,000 people in famine, and another million on the brink, these are crazy numbers. But they’re human faces,” he said. “Helicopters drop food and you see literally tens of thousands of people come out of the bush seeking support. If we can keep doing that we will avoid these figures.”
So World Shaper, we…PRAY MORE!