Almost one-third of the acutely food insecure South Sudanese the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) planned to support this year will be left without humanitarian food assistance due to critical funding shortages, heightening the risk of starvation for 1.7 million people, the UN agency said in a press release on Tuesday.
According to WFP, the suspension of aid comes at the worst possible time for the people of South Sudan as the country faces a year of unprecedented hunger. Over 60 percent of the population is 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.
Adeyinka Badejo, the Acting Country Director of the WFP in South Sudan, said the agency was concerned about the impact of the funding cuts on the vulnerable population.
“We 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,” she said. “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.”
“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,” Badejo added.
According to the statement, WFP 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 statement reads. “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 labor, and child marriage.”
The UN agency said its crisis response and resilience-building development programs are drastically underfunded this year and WFP requires US$ 426 million dollars to reach six million food-insecure people through 2022.
According to WFP, in 2022, food insecurity in South Sudan is alarmingly high. The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) assessment warned that 7.74 million people will face severe acute hunger at the height of the lean season between June and August, while 1.4 million children will be acutely malnourished.
WFP says it is prioritizing its limited food assistance to reach 4.5 million people struggling with severe hunger across 52 counties in South Sudan, including 87,000 people in eight counties already experiencing catastrophic hunger and living in famine-like conditions.
Source: Radio Tamazuj