Three United Nations agencies on Tuesday called for concerted efforts to help tackle food insecurity and malnutrition in South Sudan where hunger has hit unprecedented levels.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), UN children’s fund (UNICEF), and the World Food Programme (WFP) said almost 65 percent of the population, or 7.74 million people are severely food insecure with 2.9 million of those on the cusp of starvation and another 87,000 in famine-like conditions.
Adeyinka Badejo, WFP Acting Country Director in South Sudan said ending hunger in the country starts with ending sub-national conflict and tackling the climate crisis.
“I call on all stakeholders to create conditions for peace and stability that will enable the country and its population to prosper, to increase food production, to curb the level of hunger that is spiraling out of control, and to build resilience to climatic shocks,” Badejo said in a joint statement issued in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
The UN agencies said severe, multiyear flood events, surging subnational violence, and economic pressures are pushing more people into worsening levels of acute food insecurity – a key driver of childhood malnutrition, disease and poverty.
Meshack Malo, FAO Representative in South Sudan called for the need to make agriculture and agri-business an attractive option to ambitious young South Sudanese citizens.
“FAO is supporting the formation of farming cooperatives and facilitating access to markets. Growth in the agricultural sector provides sustainable livelihoods, positively contributes to the national economy, and helps reduce overdependence on imported foods,” Malo added.
The UN agencies said despite being dependent on food imports, South Sudan has enormous potential to produce food and become a breadbasket of East Africa.
However, the agencies said with continuing sub-national conflict that is forcing people to flee their homes and disrupting livelihoods, the country finds itself in a recurring food crisis.
Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan, said children pay the highest price as manifested in the alarming and increasing rates of severe wasting in children seen across the country.
“As the world is perpetually enveloped in climate-related, political and economic crises, we must double down on our efforts in South Sudan to address food insecurity,” said Lasseko.