UK agencies lack funds to help prevent famine in South Sudan

03/07/2014

DEC member agencies currently have less than half the money they need to help prevent the growing food crisis in South Sudan turning into a catastrophe.

International food crisis experts working together as IPC Partners* have said that if the conflict in South Sudan continues, and more aid cannot be delivered, then by August it is likely that some localised areas of South Sudan will slip into famine.  The same experts helped predict the seriousness of the 2011 East Africa food crisis, which culminated in the first famine of the 21st century in south central Somalia. 

DEC member agencies have plans to continue increasing their emergency work in response to the crisis which would cost £113m to deliver but to date only £56m in funding has been secured.  The planned work includes providing food & drinking water, treating acute malnutrition and helping manage a major cholera outbreak.

The funding shortfall faced by DEC member agencies is part of a wider international picture with the UN reporting that only $US758m of the $US1.8bn requested for the overall humanitarian response to the crisis has been secured.

DEC Chief Executive Saleh Saeed said:

“We are gravely concerned that millions of people are facing an extreme food crisis in South Sudan this summer and there is a very real risk of famine in some areas.

“The DEC is actively assessing the situation in South Sudan against its appeal criteria. We believe that the level of need is already sufficient to justify an appeal.  Although both conflict and the rainy season have made many areas very hard to reach, we know our member agencies have the capacity to provide a significant increase in assistance if further resources were available. 

“We are very concerned however that despite some excellent news coverage of the situation, public awareness of the crisis in the UK remains very low, making a successful appeal extremely difficult.”

The UK Department for International Development has been one of the leading international donors supporting humanitarian work in South Sudan.  The UK Government has given £93m since the current emergency started in December 2013 and only the US government has given more. 

IPC Partners have warned that 3.9m people in South Sudan will face ‘crisis’ or ‘emergency’ levels of food insecurity by August without an increase in international assistance, if the current fighting continues. The principle cause of the food insecurity is the conflict that broke out in December 2013 between different factions of the ruling party.  The violence has displaced many farmers, preventing them from planting or harvesting crops.  There are now 1.5m people who have been displaced by the fighting, including 400,000 who have fled to neighbouring countries.

Although humanitarian agencies are making every effort to increase aid deliveries, access remains limited by fighting and the start of the rainy season which has turned many unpaved roads into rivers of mud. In some of the worst-affected areas – particularly in parts of the north eastern states of Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile - no food assistance has been delivered.

In August and September, desperate subsistence farmers who have managed to plant some crops will begin harvesting them while they are only partially ripe – a ‘green harvest’.  This may keep some people from starving but could significantly deplete what is already expected to be a very poor main harvest beginning in October.

South Sudan became the world’s newest nation when it gained independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011. Despite good harvests in recent years the country suffers high levels of poverty and chronic food insecurity.  The rains this year in many conflict-affected areas are expected to be average or below average due to the forecast affects of El Niño.

All 13 DEC member agencies are responding to the crisis in South Sudan or assisting refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries.   The following DEC agencies have launched appeals specifically in response to the crisis: Oxfam, Save the Children, British Red Cross, CAFOD, Age International & CARE International.

Several DEC member agencies have highlighted that only an end to the conflict can address the underlying causes of the food crisis and all agree that unhindered humanitarian access is essential while the conflict continues.

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