By Philip Thon Aleu
May 4, 2011 (KAMPALA) – Officials from South Sudan’s state of Jonglei say that the UN’s decision to halt food supplies to unsecure counties has left more the 20,000 people at risk.
The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) stopped activities in Jonglei and other parts of South Sudan due to attacks on their staff. On 19 April a WFP staff member was killed in an ambush in Duk county of Jonglei state triggering the decision.
Speaking to the Sudan Tribune by phone from Bor, Jonglei state minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Mayen Ngor Atem said that more over 20,000 people who returned from northern Sudan this year, are left vulnerable to hunger and plans to extend farming in the area has also been affected.
“Those [returnees] who returned to Jonglei state [from the north] are over 27,000 […] and these are the people who need food at this critical period of cultivation,” said Jonglei state minister Mayen Ngor adding that the exact population lacking food in Jonglei is higher than he estimates.
“If they [returnees] are not provided with food at this time, then there will be a problem and there will be more food supplies needed next year,” he added.
Cattle rustlers and child abductors are major players of insecurity in Jonglei state. Security situation worsen in South Sudan’s vast and highly populated state following rebellion of Gen. George Athor and David Yauyau in April 2010 after losing local elections. Last week, armed youths attacked Pibor county killing dozens and robbed hundreds of cattle, according to authorities.
South Sudan voted to secede from the north in a January, 2011 referendum provided for by the 2005 peace accord that ended decades of civil war. But the road to independence, due in July this year, is marred by local rebellions numbering seven different factions. The region has a history of inter-tribal conflicts over resources, cattle and pastures.
Jonglei state governor, Kuol Manyang Juuk, told a press conference in Bor last week that WFP decision caught him by surprise. Governor Kuol added that the withdrawal will affect resettlement of people in Pigi county where the South Sudan army (SPLA) had fought Athor’s. He said that the situation in Pigi had returned to normal in March 2011 and Athor’s forces forced out of the area.
In an interview on Wednesday Jonglei’s agriculture minister said the state had taken the “necessary measure” to deploy extra police to the headquarters of humanitarian missions in the state to insure the safety of humanitarian workers.
GRASS ROOTS FARMING
In another development, minister Mayen said that his ministry is undertaking projects to encourage “extensive farming at grassroots.”
“We [south Sudanese] are going to celebrate our independence [on July 9th, 2011] and I am opportunistic that, with current plans and good rains, we shall have enough food production in Jonglei,” he said.
However producing enough food for Jonglei to be self sufficient is dependent on improved security Ngor conceded. He said that all but two counties of Jonglei’s 11 counties now have “mobilized extensive farming workers and community leaders.”
State farms, which act as examples to local farmers, are being established, he said, claiming that there are ploughed fields in Twic East county.