At least 6.5 million people in South Sudan, or more than half of the population, could face acute food insecurity at the height of this hunger season between May and July, three UN agencies and the government warned Thursday.
Food security has worsened significantly in areas hit by last year’s flood, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) joint report released by the government, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP). “Despite some seasonal improvements in food production, the number of hungry people remains dangerously high, and keeps rising,” said Meshack Malo, FAO Representative in South Sudan.
Some 5.3 million South Sudanese were already struggling to feed themselves at the start of the year, the report found. “We are now facing desert locust swarms that could make this even worse,” Malo added. The hunger situation is expected to deepen by the end of this month due to depleted food stocks and high food prices caused by flooding and related population displacement, localized insecurity, economic crisis, low crop production and prolonged years of asset depletion continue to keep people hungry.
An estimated 20,000 people in Joneglei state’s counties of Akobo, Duk and Ayod will be suffering from the most extreme levels of hunger (catastrophe-level of food insecurity) from February through April, the agencies warned. “Any kind of improvement which had been made was counter-balanced by the floods at the end of 2019,” said Matthew Hollingworth, WFP’s Country Director in South Sudan. The report estimates that 1.3 million children will suffer from acute malnutrition in the east African country this year. South Sudan has been devastated by more than six years of civil war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced over one million others. The transitional unity government will be formed on Feb. 22.