The food crisis in South Sudan is predicted to worsen significantly next year if fighting in the world’s newest country intensifies, a new report by leading agencies including Christian Aid has warned.
South Sudan is already experiencing the world’s worst food crisis, brought about by months of conflict.
Famine was avoided earlier this year owing to an influx of aid, good rains which provided a better than expected harvest, and a lull in fighting due to the wet season.
However, there are fears that the fighting, which erupted in December last year, will escalate once the rainy season ends.
From crisis to catastrophe
In what the report describes as a shift from crisis to catastrophe, it is feared that unless a peace is agreed, the number of people facing dangerous levels of hunger will increase by 1 million between January and March next year to 2.5 million.
Rosie Crowther, our emergency programme officer, based in Juba, says: ‘People have already been living with emergency levels of food insecurity for months and months and this will continue into next year.
‘There has been a modest harvest. But because many people who have had to leave their homes haven’t been able to plant crops, the lean season will start earlier and go on much longer next year.’
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Our partners are providing emergency supplies such as food, clean water, hygiene kits and shelter in remote areas worst hit by violence, insecurity and forced displacement.
In Unity state our long-term partner the Lutheran World Federation has been handing out blankets, cooking sets, sleeping mats, soap and water basins to displaced people.
Another partner, UNKEA, has been distributing medical supplies and water purification tablets in Upper Nile state.
Credit: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance
A man-made food crisis
Since December 2013 the war has disrupted planting, trade routes and markets, particularly in the three most conflict-affected states of Upper Nile, Unity and Jongeli.
Violence has left farmers unable to sow or harvest their crops and fishermen cannot access rivers. In addition, many of the cattle on which cattle herders rely have been stolen, slaughtered or sold off for less than their usual value.
The report concludes that South Sudan’s conflict and food crisis are ‘inextricably linked’ and warns that both are likely to worsen in the months ahead.
Since the fighting erupted in December last year, 1.7 million people have fled their homes. Of these, more than 1.3 million individuals remain internally displaced. Most are seeking shelter in remote rural areas across the country.
It is estimated that well over 10,000 people have been killed.
This map shows the main areas of conflict between December 2013 and May 2014. View a larger version
Since President Salva Kiir – leader of the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement (SPLM) - dismissed the entire cabinet in July 2013, political tensions have been building.
Conflict erupted in Juba on 15 December, and rapidly spread across the country.
The two sides signed a Cessation of Hostilities agreement on 23 January 2014, but violent clashes continued between the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA) and opposition forces loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar.
Civilians have been targeted on the basis of their ethnicity, others indiscriminately killed, and many subjected to unspeakable human rights abuses, including rape.
Renewed pressure for peace
On 9 May, Salva Kiir and Riek Machar signed an agreement recommitting to the Cessation of Hostilities signed on 23 January. Yet so far no agreement has been reached and fighting continues in the east of the country.
There is now a new 45-day deadline to reach a peace agreement. Along with other aid agencies, we have called on the international community to increase pressure on the parties to end the fighting, including an arms ban.
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South Sudan: Christian Aid concerned over escalating human rights violations
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Our work in South Sudan
Video: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks about South Sudan