The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said Tuesday it has been forced to suspend food assistance to South Sudanese due to a critical funding crunch, heightening the risk of starvation for 1.7 million people.
The WFP said the suspension of aid comes at the worst possible time for the people of South Sudan as the country faces a year of record hunger.
“Humanitarian needs are far exceeding the funding we have received this year. If this continues, we will face bigger and more costly problems in the future, including increased mortality, malnutrition, stunting, and disease,” Adeyinka Badejo, Acting Country Director of the WFP in South Sudan warned in a statement issued in the capital, Juba
According to WFP, almost one-third of the acutely food insecure South Sudanese the UN agency planned to support this year will be left without humanitarian food assistance due to a critical funding crunch.
More than 60 percent of the population are grappling with severe food insecurity during the lean season, fuelled by continuing conflict, severe flooding, localized drought, and soaring food prices exacerbated by the crisis in Ukraine.
Badejo said they are extremely concerned about the impact of the funding cuts on children, women and men who will not have enough to eat during the lean season.
“These families have completely exhausted their coping strategies. They need immediate humanitarian assistance to put food on the table in the short-term and to rebuild their livelihoods and resilience to cope with future shocks,” she added.
The WFP said its crisis response and resilience-building development programs are drastically underfunded this year and requires 426 million U.S. dollars to reach six million food insecure people through 2022. The WFP said it had exhausted all options before suspending food assistance, including halving rations in 2021, leaving families in need with less food to eat.
These latest reductions to assistance will also impact 178,000 schoolchildren who will no longer receive daily school meals – a crucial safety net that helps keep South Sudanese children in school to learn and grow.
The WFP said more drastic reductions will be unavoidable, unless more funding is received, which will leave vulnerable people unable to meet their basic food needs and reverting to survival strategies such as skipping or reducing meals, selling assets, using child labour and child marriage. Enditem