South Sudan

Conflict a cause of hunger in South Sudan

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In order to prevent starvation, food is dropped from air planes to people in need © NRC

“The critical food situation is worsening for the 2.5 million people at risk in South Sudan. There is an urgent need for a solution on the conflict so that people are able to resume their daily lives in dignity and not be dependent on massive food assistance,” says Ulrika Blom, Country Director for Norwegian Refugee Council in South Sudan.

You might have heard it before. But when more than two million people are at risk of starvation, it should be repeated. We are told again and again that a peace must be found to prevent a famine. True, food insecurity is built on conflict. People are being displaced across their country, unable to work, unable to plant and unable to live in safety and security.

“Conflict is the root cause of the food insecurity situation in South Sudan” says Blom. The protection threats people face make many people’s daily lives untenable, markets are unable to function; traders to move goods and people are unable to live sustainable lives. In Nairobi on 9 February the international community generously stepped up and committed $600 million to South Sudan. $1.2 billion more will be needed. Without a tangible peace on the ground people will continue to be reliant on international assistance. As the international community proved that you do not have to wait for a famine to be declared to provide help; similarly you do not need a signed peace agreement for the attacks on civilians and property to stop. A real peace is measured not by agreements signed but by impact on the ground.

Need for safe movement

The dry season is a significant opportunity to boost this food assistance by moving supplies to critical areas but also the safe movement of populations. “The conflict is limiting the movement of people and their possibilities of resuming their livelihood. The free and safe movement of people and commercial goods would have the single largest beneficial impact on preventing the potential risk of famine”, she adds.

Even if peace and stability returned, the food situation would not improve over night. Thomas Ølholm, food security advisor in NRC. “Even if fighting stops, the whole food production system needs to be reviewed in the most affected areas. Children and elderly will most likely be those most affected due to lack of energy and poor health”, says Ølholm.

In South Sudan Ulrika and her NRC- team together with World Food Program (WFP) have distributed food to 29 000 people since November.“ We have another 22 700 persons currently being verified to receive food in one week´s time”, explains Blom. NRC remains committed to the people of South Sudan throughout these difficult circumstances in the coming months while hopeful that peace can enable people to once again become self-reliant and look forward to a more prosperous future.